I was forwarded this internal email from Vodafone announcing the closure of their Wayfinder services. I’ve got rid of the top and bottom of the email to just focus on the guts. It makes fascinating reading for anyone looking for insight into how an operator reacts to external market pressures:
Due to the huge competitive pressure generated by the market entry of Nokia and the upcoming launch of Google navigation, Vodafone is proposing to close down Wayfinder. While awaiting the outcome of the negotiations with the unions and the decision, we will not be working on any development and will not deliver any new Location Services.
What happens now?
Essentially, Vodafone Internet Services / Location Services (aka Wayfinder) stops development projects with immediate effect. A transition team helps in winding down the services and where possible, to mitigate adverse business impacts for a period of time.
Support for Tailormade Maps continues and service continues to run for H1/M1 as well as for horizontal handsets. There will be no bugfixes made on any of the horizontal platforms.
We will wind down the services in an orderly manner. What this means in practice is that:
– we stop embedding any of the services (Navigation, Locate) on new handsets
– we stop producing new releases, porting to new handsets, making software maintenance releases
– we start withdrawing the applications from app stores and similar download channels (in a way as to not harm the business)
– all projects, including World Cup Locate project and 368 development are stopped with immediate effect
I think it’s good news that Vodafone have wielded the axe reasonably swiftly. Unless Wayfinder could offer something particularly compelling, it was going to be quite a challenge to compete with free. As Vodafone’s own Anna Cloke points out in this Engadget piece:
“We could not charge for something that others gave away for free.”
What next for Vodafone and navigation? Well, as this internal email points out, Tailormade Maps for the Vodafone 360 H1/M1 devices survives, although from what I’ve seen of them on the H1, I really don’t think too much of them.
I’m encouraged that Vodafone have noted that it’s going to be seriously difficult to compete with ‘free’ — instead of plodding on for another 18-month cycle. I also very much like the concept of the company sticking to the knitting rather than getting involved in supplying services that often don’t necessarily compete at the highest levels with the external competition.