New data from iSuppli:

With cell phones increasingly becoming the nexus of the burgeoning markets for navigation and Location Based Services (LBS), the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology in such platforms is set to explode during the coming years, according to iSuppli Corp.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, 79.9 percent of cell phones shipped—amounting to 318.3 million units—will incorporate GPS functionality, up from 56.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009—or 187.8 million units—iSuppli predicts. (…)

iSuppli also sees an increased penetration of embedded GPS in a range of consumer and compute electronic devices by 2014. For example, iSuppli estimates that 18 percent of laptops and 42 percent of portable handheld video game players will have embedded GPS in 2014.

via Four out of Five Cell Phones to Integrate GPS by End of 2011. (found via Laurent_Local)

What it means: this massive deployment of geo-location technology will create new business opportunities that don’t even exist today. Every device and application will be able to have a “local” flavor, a local angle. And I’m fairly convinced people will feel “local” is more relevant.

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on the revamping of the GPS system. It will lead to an improved experience:

The new system is designed to pinpoint someone’s location within an arm’s length, compared with a margin of error of 20 feet or more today. With that kind of precision, a GPS-enabled mobile phone could guide you right to the front steps of Starbucks, rather than somewhere on the block.

via GPS is getting $8-billion upgrade – latimes.com.

What it means: this news should make local search geeks drool in anticipation, although we won’t see the results for a little while. As the article says “The 24 satellites that make up the GPS constellation (…) will be replaced one by one. The first replacement was scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral this weekend. The overhaul will take a decade…” But if you thought the World Wide Web wasn’t becoming the Local Wide Web, think again.

Last Thursday, during [praized subtype=”small” pid=”3860b2c64636cc5633b387557a048bc9″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]’s Q3 results call, Youssef Squali from [praized subtype=”small” pid=”b6c57ce562d66b762c5095335be04e52b4″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] asked for more details about Google’s strategy and progress around local search:

“You talked earlier about GeoLocal with product like Maps and Earth is big monetization opportunity, so we have talked about them for a long time and they remain opportunities. One of the issues there has been this direct access to the advertisers to the local merchant. Have you – are we any – are we closer to cracking the code on that?”

Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder answered:

“Certainly GeoLocal has been a substantial source of investments on the part of our company and you are absolutely right. I think it is a really big monetization opportunity but it is going to have a pretty long bootstrap time because there are so many small businesses and you have to get them all in the loop. Technology is evolving quickly with respect to things shifting to mobile phones and some of them will have GPS now, some of them do not, some have cell ID different device and things. I do think that this is an investment that we are going to have to keep investing in for some time till we get really big payoff.  I should mention we already have fairly substantial revenues from geo local, so it is not the case but somehow this is I mean this is a good chunk of our business and I expect that when we do finally bootstrap lots and lots of local advertisers. When there is some settling of the best user experiences for doing this both on mobile devices as well as on the desktops, I think you will see a substantial ramp there.”

Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP Product Management, added:

“The biggest thing I would reinforce from Sergey’s comments is, this is an area where we are winning. Maps is the most popular mapping site in the world. We have got all sorts of data now for over 160 countries. We are also doing some very exciting things in terms of ramping our ability to get data for areas where there are not very good maps, where we are harnessing the power of users to enter information in. On the local side, what we are doing really goes beyond the traditional Yellow Page types of activities and I mean we are taking all the information that a business would want or a user to see; reviews, hours of operations, photos, web results, and we are embedding all of those on to these maps which have a great deal of traffic. So, if you just run a query, steakhouse in Chicago or something like that and when you click on the map and select a particular listing, you can now do things like click on Street View and actually see the restaurant. So we are very pleased with the traffic that is being driven.  One other thing I would actually suggest you try one of the coolest maps applications I saw. Go to swisstrains.ch to see the precision of Swiss trains in real-time and you will actually get a visceral sense of what it is going to be like for people when all of this stuff works on their browsers and works in mobile devices.

Source: “Google Inc. Q3 2008 Earnings Call Transcript” from Seeking Alpha

What it means: what Google is really saying: we’ve been very successful from a user point of view with our Google Maps sites throughout the world. We’re getting good revenues from local search but it could be better.  We’re still struggling to reach the small and medium-sized businesses that make up the bulk of offline local search revenues. But, once we crack the code, it will be big. Watch for disruption happening through mobile devices and technologies.

Last Thursday, during [praized subtype=”small” pid=”3860b2c64636cc5633b387557a048bc9″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]’s Q3 results call, Youssef Squali from [praized subtype=”small” pid=”b6c57ce562d66b762c5095335be04e52b4″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] asked for more details about Google’s strategy and progress around local search:

“You talked earlier about GeoLocal with product like Maps and Earth is big monetization opportunity, so we have talked about them for a long time and they remain opportunities. One of the issues there has been this direct access to the advertisers to the local merchant. Have you – are we any – are we closer to cracking the code on that?”

Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder answered:

“Certainly GeoLocal has been a substantial source of investments on the part of our company and you are absolutely right. I think it is a really big monetization opportunity but it is going to have a pretty long bootstrap time because there are so many small businesses and you have to get them all in the loop. Technology is evolving quickly with respect to things shifting to mobile phones and some of them will have GPS now, some of them do not, some have cell ID different device and things. I do think that this is an investment that we are going to have to keep investing in for some time till we get really big payoff.  I should mention we already have fairly substantial revenues from geo local, so it is not the case but somehow this is I mean this is a good chunk of our business and I expect that when we do finally bootstrap lots and lots of local advertisers. When there is some settling of the best user experiences for doing this both on mobile devices as well as on the desktops, I think you will see a substantial ramp there.”

Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP Product Management, added:

“The biggest thing I would reinforce from Sergey’s comments is, this is an area where we are winning. Maps is the most popular mapping site in the world. We have got all sorts of data now for over 160 countries. We are also doing some very exciting things in terms of ramping our ability to get data for areas where there are not very good maps, where we are harnessing the power of users to enter information in. On the local side, what we are doing really goes beyond the traditional Yellow Page types of activities and I mean we are taking all the information that a business would want or a user to see; reviews, hours of operations, photos, web results, and we are embedding all of those on to these maps which have a great deal of traffic. So, if you just run a query, steakhouse in Chicago or something like that and when you click on the map and select a particular listing, you can now do things like click on Street View and actually see the restaurant. So we are very pleased with the traffic that is being driven.  One other thing I would actually suggest you try one of the coolest maps applications I saw. Go to swisstrains.ch to see the precision of Swiss trains in real-time and you will actually get a visceral sense of what it is going to be like for people when all of this stuff works on their browsers and works in mobile devices.

Source: “Google Inc. Q3 2008 Earnings Call Transcript” from Seeking Alpha

What it means: what Google is really saying: we’ve been very successful from a user point of view with our Google Maps sites throughout the world. We’re getting good revenues from local search but it could be better.  We’re still struggling to reach the small and medium-sized businesses that make up the bulk of offline local search revenues. But, once we crack the code, it will be big. Watch for disruption happening through mobile devices and technologies.

It seems like everyone is excited about the new iPhone that was introduced by Apple on Monday (many people are actually calling it the Jesusphone) but I think everyone’s missing the big picture.

pile of mobile phones

Flickr photo by nedrichards

What triggered those thoughts was today’s blog post from Mashable, discussing what was really revolutionary about the new iPhone:

And, The Really Big Thing About The New iPhone Is… GPS. Global Positioning System . Geo-anything. Location based services. (…) Why hasn’t all this happened before? Three words: ease of use. While you could have done all these things for the Symbian or Blackberry or Windows ME platforms (provided the device had GPS capabilities), it just took too many clicks and required too much fidgeting for any of it to get mass appeal.

I actually agree with that statement. The iPhone is well designed, it’s very easy to use, it’s now location-aware and the touchscreen navigation is amazing…

BUT…

  • RIM (Blackberry) is working on a similar device
  • Nokia is working on a similar device
  • Samsung is working on a similar device
  • HTC is probably working on a similar device
  • Google might be working on a GooglePhone

I give kudos to Apple for innovating, creating a user-focused device and forcing change in a market that badly needed the kick in the pants but, the same way the social Web is not about Facebook, Friendfeed or Twitter, the mobile Web is not about Apple and the iPhone. It’s about permanent change in the way we access the mobile Web and that’s good. But, it’s certainly not about the iPhone…

Update1: David Pogue from the New York Times reviews the Samsung Instinct.

AT&T is working closely with Apple to roll out several new and innovative applications that take advantage of the iPhone’s advanced capabilities. For example, AT&T is finalizing YELLOWPAGES.COM mobile for the iPhone, an innovative GPS-enabled application that combines local search with social networking capabilities, giving users the ability to search for information, share reviews and plan activities with friends, neighbors and co-workers.

(seen in Techcrunch, quoting the official press release)

AT&T is working closely with Apple to roll out several new and innovative applications that take advantage of the iPhone’s advanced capabilities. For example, AT&T is finalizing YELLOWPAGES.COM mobile for the iPhone, an innovative GPS-enabled application that combines local search with social networking capabilities, giving users the ability to search for information, share reviews and plan activities with friends, neighbors and co-workers.

(seen in Techcrunch, quoting the official press release)

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