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Location, Location, Location

Nokia recently announced plans to acquire NAVTEQ for $8.1B. At first glance, it’s no surprise that a leading mobile device company would want such valuable map data. When you’re on the move, you often want to know where you are and what’s around you. But consider this comment of Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, president and CEO of Nokia: “Location based services are one of the cornerstones of Nokia’s Internet services strategy. The acquisition of NAVTEQ is another step toward Nokia becoming a leading player in this space.” Hold the phone…what’s this about location based services and their Internet services strategy? Aren’t mobile operators-Nokia’s customers-usually considered the service providers? Indeed, mobile service providers have long anticipated new profits from location based services, built using subscriber location information mandated for emergency services. So far, those profits have proved elusive, perhaps because of stringent privacy concerns and regulations, or perhaps because such information is currently too expensive or too difficult for creative location application companies to flourish.Such services expect that location information is captured by the service provider, in their network, and is theirs to sell. But what if the location information is captured by the mobile device instead of the network? Many mobile phones, particularly those using the CDMA standard, already include a GPS chip. (Its location fix might be augmented by the mobile network for more exact location.) Software on the mobile device could read this location information, send it across the mobile network in IP packets, and trigger some independent location service (built using NAVTEQ data?), with no involvement by the mobile service provider (aside from carrying the packets). If that happens, no new profits from location services accrue to the mobile operator.This business challenge has not gone unnoticed by mobile operators, prompting some to block access to the APIs that would allow software to read location information. Now Nokia seems ready to challenge the operator’s sole hold on location information. Perhaps they are emboldened by the success enjoyed by Apple, in creating a full iPhone experience with relatively minimal operator involvement.Personally, these new location services can’t be ready soon enough for me, because, of course, real men don’t ask for directions. (And here’s one theory why.)Speaking of men’s foibles, have you noticed a decline in men wearing ties? Recently, I was surprised when some Japanese visitors, usually dressed quite formally, arrived at our customer briefing center without ties. Then, during a fairly formal meeting at the CTIA conference last week, I counted: of 42 men in attendance, 34 wore jackets or blazers, but only 4 wore ties. Neckties seem to be headed the way of men’s hats, into the back of the historical fashion closet. Of course, women always knew better than to wear a silk noose!

Location, Location, Location

For the past 3 years, I have been pushing hard on location as one of the top mobility services WLANs can provide. One of our European partners, Appear Networks, has deployed a landmark location service in the Stockholm subway. For a write up and video on the service, try here: http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/partners/news/2006/pr_prod_05-02.html

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