New research by Berg Insight predicts that the number of European users of mobile location-based services (LBS) will grow from 20 million users in 2008 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 37% to reach 130 million users in 2014. Local search, navigation services and social networking are forecast to become the top applications in terms of number of users.
The key enablers for LBS are falling into place. On-device application stores allow easier access to mobile services for a broader audience at the same time as flat-rate data plans make pricing more transparent.
Location aggregators have started to provide common application program interfaces (APIs) for accessing location data from multiple operators as more operators open their location platforms to third parties.
This, alongside growing GPS handset sales, will allow more application developers to create location-enabled mobile applications: we estimate that more than 20% of handsets shipped in 2009 will have GPS and that the installed base in Europe will surpass 50% of all handsets in 2013.
Many of the most popular services will primarily rely on advertising revenues, although revenues might not grow at the same rate as usage because the mobile marketing and advertising ecosystem is highly fragmented and immature. It will take several years before a successful model has been established that can reach out to a critical mass of active users.
At the same time, service categories including navigation and tracking will probably remain premium services for the most part. Besides monthly subscriptions and per-use fees, service providers will increasingly offer one-time fees, service bundles or device bundles to match consumer expectations.
• RIM has just acquired Dash Navigation for an undisclosed sum, Rethink Wirelesss reports. Dash is a digital mapping provider, which last year made the same transition many have expected from RIM over the years – ditching devices and relying on software licensing. But RIM has hung on to the phones and is now beefing up its consumer appeal with 3G smartphones and integrated applications, which will now include location services.
RIM now has its own location technology for the first time, reducing its dependence on partners – operators, Google or other software houses – in this key area and mirroring similar moves by handset makers to control their own services. Most dramatically, Nokia paid over $8 billion for navigation specialist Navteq late in 2007.
RIM recently opened its own app store and aims to develop its software and services business, saying it is moving towards a 'fourth screen' strategy with the handset providing a unified experience with the PC, TV and landline.