I’m a big believer in the power of location-based services. Everyday activities like local search, weather and communications can be greatly simplified by using automatic location.
The biggest obstacles (and, to be fair, the biggest enablers) of location-based services, are the wireless carriers. After being forced into the location business by E911 mandates, they’ve largely locked the doors to that location. That GPS chip in the phone you just bought? More likely than not, you can’t access the location it finds.
The carriers want you to pay a toll for every application. Want local weather? $3/month. Navigation services? $10/month. Movies? $4/month. And that’s on top of the $15-$25/month they want for the data service. If desktop Web services were priced the same way that carriers want to price applications, the bill for the applications I use would be $200-$300 a month.
More realistically, my Web bill would be close to zero, because I wouldn’t use anything. The only reason I pay Comcast for Internet access is the applications that AOL, Google, Yahoo! and numerous startups have created. The total dollar value of Comcast applications I use is exactly $0.00.
Likewise, the applications I use on my mobile phone are applications created by Google (maps and mail) and Yahoo! (mobile portal). They are the reasons I pay Sprint anything for wireless data. And they would be a lot more compelling to a lot more uses if they were location enabled.
Instant traffic and weather are the benefits, location is an enabler. Consumers can’t see the tremendous value of these applications because the carriers won’t let the applications have access to the location. Not seeing the benefit, consumers don’t buy wireless data. Everyone loses – the carriers, application developers and consumers.
We’ll eventually land at the same model we have for Web access. In the meantime, the carriers will have lost a lot of opportunity.