from the What's-Your-10-20 dept
So let's discuss the competitive implications of this latest move, instead. Other firms, such as Loopt, Networks in Motion, Wavemarket, OmniTRAKS, FindWhere, Motorola Rhino, Autodesk have been offering various location tracking services for years, with the first in the US consumer phone services popping up around 2005. Historically, the services were offered for prices of $10/mo or more. Loopt offers their consumer service through carriers for free or $4/mo, but Latitude is user-installed and free. Now, it's no surprise that consumer-grade tracking services are offered for free: consumers tend to like that price, and the providers can make revenue by driving consumers to local business through advertising. But the free Google application also threatens enterprise-grade tracking solutions, especially in an era of cost-cutting. Like enterprise-grade solutions, Google can display a map with the location of all the tracked "friends" or staff on a PC as well as a phone. Zoinks! Looks like the bottom just fell out of the low end of the enterprise tracking market.
So, how do enterprise vendors "compete with free"? Well, so far, Latitude cannot replace an elaborate employee tracking solution that records breadcrumbs, integrates time-carding, optimal dispatch routing, offers geo-fencing, and other high-end functions. The existing enterprise vendors can compete quite well by offering premium features, integration into management tools, and verticalized solutions that deliver incremental value over the free services. How do you compete with a free product? Offer a product that's worth more -- and which the free version can't easily copy.
Google's entry signals a tipping point for tracking, as its brand penetration and price will push this type of service into many more handsets. Since Latitude also works on laptops, we can expect much better targeted location-aware advertising on our laptop Google searches, too... whether that impresses you or creeps you out. Bottom line is that the Twitter-types, who constantly update their network with short text messages, can save themselves some typing with Latitude. Privacy advocates will shun it, and others like me will manage it, enabling Latitude when we need it, and shutting it off most of the day. However, in the long run, this can be quite good for competitors in the market who can successfully incorporate advanced features worth paying for. Let Google educate the market, and have demand for such apps in the enterprise level bubble up.