Google's threat to mobile nav sector: report

Dylan Bushell-Embling
27 Oct 2009
Daily News

Navigation service providers are fearful that Google will move in on their turf with a free mobile nav app.

A free navigation alternative, which would be built on the Google Maps suite, could cut into the providers' bottom lines, or even drive some of them out of business, providers toldForbes.

Like most of Google's products, the rumored service will likely be supported entirely through advertising. The ability for advertisers to tailor ads based on location could make this venture particularly lucrative.

Any such move would also put Google in direct competition with Nokia, which acquired electronic map producer Navteq in 2007 for $8 billion and more recently bought London-based LBS start-up Dopplr.

A number of mobile operators worldwide also offer their own mobile navigation tools. One wireless navigation company executive said Google could use the ascendancy of Android to bypass the traditionally tight control carriers have had on which products appear on their phones.

Google has confirmed that consumers frequently ask for navigation to be added Google Maps, but declined to comment on future products.

But Google's dedication to Google Maps, and its experiments selling sponsored adds on the iPhone map application, have left some convinced that mobile navigation is the next logical step.

Google's decision to stop sourcing US map data from Tele Atlas - instead using its own satellite imagery and fleet of Street View cars - and its experiments sourcing traffic data directly from users' phones have also served to reinforce the rumor.

Gartner has estimated that the LBS market will more than double in 2009 to a $2.2 billion industry catering to 95.7 million users.

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