Book it in your calendar ! June 15-16 in Berlin will be another opportunity to discuss the future of Navigation, Content and Services. As a preview, here is a link to a debate to which NAVX contributed on-line with Pioneer, Aupeo! and Strategy Analytics. To be continued on stage in Berlin !
On 22 February 2011, the French website publisher 1plusV filed a complementary complaint before the European Commission, alleging abuse by Google of a dominant position. This follows an initial complaint lodged on February 2010, which led the European Commission to open in-depth investigations into Google's behaviour in November 2010. In addition to this, Google may now face a further action from 1plusV before the French courts.
The French Commercial Code allows undertakings claiming to have suffered harm from anticompetitive practices to file antitrust damages actions before French Commercial courts. Whilst few of these French antitrust damages actions have been launched to date, as they require a significant amount of time and adequate funding in order to be implemented, several of them are currently pending against Google.
The most well-known action is the one launched by the mapping content provider Navx. Navx first launched an antitrust action before the French Competition Authority, which declared that Google had implemented its online advertising service, AdWords, with a lack of objectivity and transparency which resulted in discriminatory treatment (see Community Week Issues 478, 481 and 495).
While the French Competition Authority accepted Google's commitments on 28 October 2010 and closed the procedure, Google still faces a €7 million antitrust private damages claim launched by Navx on 11 October 2010, this time before the Paris Commercial court. Another mapping company, Bottin Carto, also has a case pending against Google before the Paris Commercial court claiming €500,000 damages.
Generally speaking, and even if 1plusV was to succeed in claiming a greater level of damages than that sought by Navx, the sums Google may have to pay in damages in respect of these French proceedings remains low compared to Google's turnover and ability to pay. Nevertheless, small but numerous victories against Google may still be seen as significant by stakeholders and indeed by Google itself.
NAVX will be at CEBIT in March and at Navigation Strategies Europe in June. A good opportunity to meet and share our vision of the market with the other players of the navigation and geolocalisation market. As a teaser, here are the questions we consider crucial in 2011 :
1. What is the maturity level and the utility of real time updated information in improving the overall navigation experience?
The PND category is flat/declining in terms of volumes. However, if you look inside that category, the proportion of connected devices is increasing rapidly, as TomTom and Garmin are introducing more connected devices in their product range. At the same time, most major car manufacturers are busy designing their in-dash connected solutions. These connected devices allow users to access live information: traffic, updated gas prices, real-time park availability, etc. Therefore, real-time updated info is essential to serve the growing installed base of connected devices. Now, is this a mature market ? Certainly not, this is the beginning. In the next couple of years, we will see more dynamic content reaching GPS screens: automotive content, events, geocontextual advertising & couponing, social-network related information, etc.
2. How is the industry placed today to take the navigation experience to a whole new level with information content and social networking abilities?
One of the main challenges is to come up with sound business models, which allow to build high-quality content while at the same time cope with the fact that end-users are reluctant to pay for it. The solution is probably in a mix of business models, combining free, paid subscriptions and advertising. We, at NAVX, generate revenues mainly through subscriptions, which proves that end-user are ready to pay when the information provides a return: avoid speed tickets, find the cheapest gas, save time and find a parking spot, etc. By introducing geolocalized couponing and geocontextual advertising, we will be able to build more elaborate business models, attracting end-users which would not pay for a service before testing it.
A second challenge is to scale over a large number of territories. Providing one type of content over 20 countries is better than providing 20 types of content over 1 territory, because map providers and PND or car manufacturers need to provide pan-European or even worldwide services.
3. What new trends have we witnessed as far as the blend of navigation applications with utility content such as city guides, fuel prices etc. and location aware social networking features is concerned?
Blending database with crowdsourced content is a major trend. Our experience at NAVX is that the optimum is to have 15 to 25% of user-generated content mixed with official database. It allows to reach the best coverage and freshness of information. It required very efficient and automated processes that can extract data from various sources and deliver high-quality information.
In terms of categories of content, there is clearly a trend towards geolocalized information for electric vehicles. Knowing where EV points of recharge are, what type of plug they support, what voltage, being able to book and know when is the best time to go, are all sorts of necessary information. At NAVX, we are building a European database of EV points of recharge, which is challenging effort because the installed base of points of recharge is growing very rapidly.
4. What factors should be taken into consideration when developing mobile applications especially from navigation perspective?
NAVX develops iPhone, Samsung or Nokia applications targeting the B2C market and offering geolocalized content. However, during the last 12 months, we also noticed that our B2B clients were increasingly interested in applications, and not only content. This is why we have started an activity around embedded applications: these are applications targeting the automotive market, combining a UI, a navigation software and content. As an example, we recently announced two embedded applications developed on Android for the PARROT ASTEROID hand-free system.
From a navigation perspective, it is essential to build a UI which allows the user to access the information as easily as possible, without distracting him/her from driving.
5. How will tablet devices like the iPad kick start a massive growth in LBS ?
Tablet devices will make it easier to integrate geolocalized content in augmented reality applications. The large screen, the light weight of the device, the ability to download applications from appstores, are good reasons for augmented reality to be a success on tablets. From NAVX's perspective, it means that there will be a growing market for relevant and quality geolocalized information.
6. How will the market for third-party applications and content evolve as navigation platforms shift from proprietary walled gardens to open source systems?
We have been hearing for a while now, that navigation platform would become open source systems. It is not yet a reality. When it happens, NAVX will grab the opportunity to innovate and build applications that end-users will download onto their devices. It will be an opportunity to target more local or fragmented markets, which cannot be addressed by PND manufacturers at a European of worldwide level. Such an evolution will be very similar to what happened with the iPhone and the Appstore. Will PND manufacturers be as successful as Apple ?
7. The industry this year has witnessed the emergence of the first turn-by-turn voice guided navigation app which uses 3D acceleration built into the chip of the iPhone. One such application features voice guided turn-by-turn car navigation, travel guides, location-based wiki information, pedestrian mode, social network, 3D maps, attractive landmarks and enriched mountain data. How do we assess such developments at this stage?
This development is clearly disrupting the Navigation market, putting a lot of pressure on PND manufacturers for them to innovate, launch connected devices, build connected services... PNDs and in-dash systems still have the advantage of a larger screen and a better usability. But smartphones are integrating lots of features in one single device. One major issue for smartphone navigation apps is the business model. While a customer will accept paying between $100 and $300 for a GPS device, he/she will be less likely to spend even a few dollars on a mobile app. So the game is not over.