Even it’s not fierce yet, we can still sense a whiff of intensity in the map market. Or should we say it’s the calm before a storm. It seems that the O2O heat is urging the Internet industry to keep pace with it, with big names like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent jump to ride on the trend with different approaches.

 

Map is the New Mobile Gateway

You must have experienced the new map service on iOS6, which received so much negative press these days. The company said that the replacing of Google maps is because Google neither license its turn-by-turn navigation feature nor share the data of voice-guided directions with iOS. It obviously is very challenging for Apple Map to catch up given Google’s time, money and resources spent on map offering. And Google keeps improving its map service. Recently Google fought back with the biggest update of its street view function of  over 250,000 miles of roads around the world. Unfortunately for iOS6 users, you’ll have to wait for a long while before Apple eventually approves Google’s map app.

If the discord speaks to something, it should be, mobile map matters, let’s beat it.

 

China’s Top Three

According to a report from Analysys International (a Beijing-based TMT market researcher), in china’s mobile map industry, Baidu(21.3%), AutoNavi(19.3%) and Google(19.0%) ranked top three in terms of the active users in the second quarter of this year. An industry observer noted that, “Google still needs some time to recover its map market in China. Baidu and AutoNavi clearly would be the biggest rivals then.”

Last month, Baidu officially announced that it had established a LBS BU, aiming at over 100M users by the end of this year. Currently, Baidu Maps has over 77M users, and over 4,000 local merchant partners. Sun Yunfeng, senior system architect of Baidu told media that the LBS services would soon cover various venues like restaurants, movie theaters, malls, hotel, supermarkets, or parks. He also mentioned an independent LBS app that supports both a user generated (UGC) and business generated content (BGC) ecosystem.

Baidu’s map arsenal

Qie Jianjun, VP of AutoNavi recently said that the map service provider would also venture into LBS market by offering users with local life services. He is also very optimistic about the bigger picture of LBS and business models derived from it.

 

LBS & O2O

Map industry observers believed that the main competition among mobile maps would be shifting from accuracy or route planning to local life services and community management.

In the latest Baidu Map 4.0 version, information about and access to nearby group-buying or coupons are made available, speaking to Baidu’s first move to combine local businesses with its map service more closely. Through partnerships with other life service platforms like Dianping, Qunar, locations and merchants are linked together. Users can download real-time coupons and do mobile payments as well.

However there is a problem regarding mobile map market, which is the low active user rate. Analysys International noted that, out of the 300 million mobile map users in China, only 3% uses one certain kind of mobile map on daily basis. The market is emerging, but where are the users?

Qie Jianjun also admitted that they haven’t seen a explicit revenue model for LBS business yet. “But with the emergence of value-added services, ads and booking services, revenue streams would be clear eventually.”

 

A little side note:

in October –

  • Taobao launched online mapping service;
  • Tencent ramped up LBS app with features like street view;
  • China Mobile expecting LBS-related revenue to reach RMB 500 million this year.