Interview with Larry Delaney, MapInfo’s Director of Location-based Services

By Joe Francica

1.For the last year, the luster has been wiped from the LBS market and it looks like several companies will or have been going out of business.Where will MapInfo focus attention on this market and what applications appear to offer a revenue-generating opportunity?

In the last year, we have seen several factors contribute to the slow adoption of LBS:

1) Collapse of the Telco Market. Our target customers are under severe economic pressure from debt created by mergers/acquisitions and 3G license auctions. This has created massive scrutiny on all aspects of their business, particularly capital investments. MapInfo is addressing this issue by working with the operators to develop and prove their business cases and offering innovative business models that share the risk/reward with operators.

2) Competing Investment Priorities. As mentioned above, operators must prioritize investment like never before. Most operators are focused on MMS which is the logical evolution of SMS and, as such, has a proven business case. We have been focused on educating the market on the complimentary aspects of LBS to both SMS and MMS. I am convinced that this is the way forward and will ultimately lead to greater success in both categories.

3) Lack of Compelling Applications. The business case for LBS is highly dependent on a suite of applications that a wireless operator can offer their subscribers. Over the past year, MapInfo has invested in working closely with our customers and prospects to deliver these applications through our Mobile Location Suite. From a consumer perspective, I believe that the mobile concierge (miGuide) applications and friend finder (miFriends) applications will be the most effective. To date, the slow adoption has been due to the poor execution of these applications rather than the market demand for them. MapInfo is addressing this issue by integrating our applications with SMS and MMS. MapInfo is also focused on the commercial market place and will offer businesses applications that make their mobile professionals more productive and enable them to manage their fleets more efficiently. MapInfo has a legacy of success with business customers. We will leverage this success and our partnerships to develop new business applications and enhance existing applications.

2.Concierge services link Wingcast have gone sour, but other types of in-vehicle LBS applications for businesses seem to be flourishing.What is your perspective on the use of LBS technology for fleet or field service management? Will MapInfo focus on these applications?
Please see above. This is definitely an area of focus for MapInfo.

3.What consumer applications appear to have the most promise for acceptance? How do you differentiate the markets in U.S., Europe, and Asia?
As I noted, our initial focus will be on friend finder applications and applications that provide subscribers with location relevant information - like a mobile concierge application. We will also employ our expertise in demographic analysis to profile customers and provide information that is relevant to both their location and their specific interests.

4.In order for LBS, for either consumer or business services, to gain acceptance, it appears to need a catalyst to "jump-start" the market.Do you think this will come in the form of a low price point or a service that demonstrates a powerful ROI?
I firmly believe that it is the latter. I have had several direct conversations with operators in Europe and North America that are taking a tentative approach. However, without exception these operators intend to respond as quickly as possible to any competitive launch of LBS. I also believe that we are on the brink of this occurring. Here in the UK, Vodafone has launched Vodafone live with national television advertising featuring maps on phones. It is this kind of marketing investment that will educate the market.

5.The telecommunications industry has been obviously hurt by the worldwide economic downturn leading to a retrenchment of investment in LBS.What services, like "friend finder" are likely to be offered when the economy provides the necessary positive incentives?
Applications like friend finders and mobile concierge applications will provide the initial impetus to launch LBS. Perhaps more importantly, these applications will educate the market to the existence of LBS and what is possible. This is when we will see real innovation.

6.Where does MapInfo see its product strengths? Has this vision changed during the last 6-9 months?
MapInfo's product strengths are derived from 16 years of experience in providing geospatial software and data. This legacy, combined with the emphasis we placed over the last several years on delivering enterprise applications, enables MapInfo to deliver a reliable, scalable solution to wireless operators. This may sound cliché, but should not be discounted. LBS will take geospatial away from being an analytical tool employed by experts to a mainstream service utilized by millions. Operators must be absolutely confident in a vendors ability to service this demand. To the best of my knowledge, MapInfo is the only vendor that has proven the ability to do so. Our experience with Siemens and Vodafone is unique in the LBS Market. This partnership, and the credibility it delivers, may be our greatest competitive advantage.

7.Going forward, when do you see the market for LBS turning?
This will be a year for decision making and initial investments in trials. However, I firmly believe that this market will take off in the next 18 months and when it does there will be a flurry of activity, and revenue for those companies that can effectively deliver. I believe that MapInfo is uniquely positioned to do so.

Published Thursday, January 30th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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