In a new report, ABI Research expects off-deck LBS application downloads to increase to more than 260 million in 2010 and to reach almost two billion by 2014.
“The main drivers of this off-deck LBS revolution are the sudden rise in popularity of a new generation of touch-screen GPS-enabled smartphones, combined with a wide range of application stores launched by handset and mobile operating system vendors,” says ABI Research practice director Dominique Bonte.
“While Apple has set the stage with the iPhone/iTunes platform, it is now being copied by Google (Android), RIM, Nokia (Symbian), and Microsoft (Windows Mobile), allowing smaller LBS developers to compete with traditional off-deck LBS players such as Telenav, Networks in Motion, and Loopt. This competition results from a lower cost structure based on crowd-sourced location content, advertising-funded business models, alternative positioning technologies, and viral marketing techniques.”
However, ABI believes that the nascent off-deck LBS environment is already threatened by looming fragmentation both within and between platforms, and by increasing uncertainty surrounding viable business models, with the ubiquitous freemium and ad-funded approaches illustrating end users’ limited willingness to pay.
ABI also noticed that Google’s launch of free turn-by-turn navigation has cast further doubt on the prospects for monetizing off-deck LBS, while at the same time undermining the valuation of established hardware players such as Garmin and TomTom, despite both companies recently having launched handset-based products.
In the long run the market research firm believes that these off-deck applications “will be gradually replaced by embedded location services such as geo-enabled browsers, location-aware messaging, micro-blogging and other mobile services: these integrated solutions will offer a superior user experience to the average consumer, compared with downloading and managing a portfolio of separate applications.”