Posts Tagged ‘application developers’

Navigation services need not lose their way

November 30, 2009



If providers of digital maps needed any more reminders that high-granular geo-data is becoming more and more free to access, then it came with the recent announcement that the UK based, and Government owned, Ordnance Survey organisation plans to make its content freely available as an on-line mapping service sometime next year. The Ordnance Survey‘s work goes all the way back to the Napoleonic wars and is one of the largest producers of maps in the world so you can imagine the level of detail that will soon be available to browse on-line.

This announcement, however interesting it is among map and navigation content providers, would have paled in significance to Google’s recent announcement to offer a turn-by-turn navigation for free as part of Google Maps.

This declaration puts providers of navigation services in no doubt of Google’s new disruptive intentions. Navigation is by far the main bread winner in a $2 billion mapping market yet the geo-data content to enable navigation is no longer a significant asset by itself and the value of licensing this content is falling fast as competition gets stiffer.

The question for the larger established providers of high-end mobile navigation services is how to adapt their services and compete in a market where users are now less willing to pay. Making the geo-data content more accessible is one option to consider. An open development strategy can reduce development and integration costs and it allows application developers to be more productive with fewer restrictions on licensing.

I am not suggesting that geo-data should be open source but the basis by how geo-data is used within an application environment could be. Furthermore, in the context of The Symbian Foundation, it soon will be open source!

In the same way Google is delighting its users by offering free navigation, the same opportunity exists for other content providers wanting to offer their version of navigation on Symbian. The Symbian platform now makes available a Map and Navigation Framework to any content provider looking to easily develop on-device navigation services. This framework is a Symbian initiative specifically designed to enable rapid service development for any content provider wishing to leverage the Symbian platform for high-grade navigation services.

The market value for navigation is shrinking in the sense that less people are prepared to pay for the service but usage of the service is most certainly set to increase, massively so. Geo-data providers have the opportunity to explore new business models based on making their content more freely available using more relaxed, flexible licensing. To facilitate this, Symbian has established a content delivery framework within the platform that is open to all application developers and content providers. This is not about content providers offering a public API to allow the development of simple widget based applications that run in the browser. These services are not always going to be competitive enough. This new framework is designed to allow content providers to work with developers and build on-board or embedded functionality which complement widgets.

Symbian’s Map and Navigation Framework extends the range of services that content providers offer application developers. Currently, virtually all content providers allow runtime access to their content using a public API which is great to allow developers to render standard content within the application. The Symbian Map and Navigation Framework gives content providers an additional option. It is a basis to allow their developer community to build new services in application environments other than widgets. It means application developers can more easily build working prototypes without the need to negotiate content licensing separately. Making the content accessible over a pre-integrated framework as part of the device allows more developers to build better applications with that content.

Making the content available and accessible based on flexible licensing options can encourage a different range of applications to be developed using the content. It’s this type of model that potentially allows providers of geo-data to work more extensively with different application providers with the open source nature of Symbian being the main catalyst.