Will announce maps service at app service launch on Thursday
Vodafone will announce a mapping and navigation service later this week, based on technology from Wayfinder, the location services company it acquired late in 2008. By next year, the operator hopes to be selling a host of advertising and marketing formats, based on location, to brands and agencies.
The launch will be part of the company’s next step into data services, and part of a range of applications available through the company’s new services and applications approach – said to be called Vodafone 360.
The operator hopes to use the mapping service to commercialise location based services such as find- nearest, coupons, sponsored local search, sponsored content and other location-aware advertising and marketing opportunities.
Speaking at the ad:tech conference in London, Erin Ericson, Location Based Advertising Manager, Vodafone, said that the service, now in Beta at http://maps.vodafone.com would “enable adverts next year” and that the operator was “still exploring formats.”
The launch of mapping, navigation and location based services will put Vodafone up against Google Maps on mobile, as well as Nokia maps. So how will the operator position itself against these services? If a user buys a Nokia phone, he has a choice of the embedded Nokia Maps, installing an app from Google through the browser, and now the Vodafone app itself. The operator has also just announced, for example, the launch of the Android-base HTC Tatoo, which comes with a clutch of Google apps, including maps.
Ericson said that Vodafone sees its advantage in having its application pre-installed and embedded in the phone. “We have all the advantages of our network, marketing through stores and sales people, giving us a reach way beyond what Nokia can offer. Also, most people do not go to the effort of finding an application through the browser and installing it.”
One possible interpretation is that Vodafone is viewing the application as something it can pre-install on handsets that don’t come with their own location or mapping application – perhaps away from the high-end smartphone market into the mid tier.
If it doesn’t view the service in that way, then it is launching a direct rival to the existing services on handsets already on its network, showing that it is determined not to cede control of the apps market, and the associated revenues that come with it.