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Vodafone kills Wayfinder citing “competitive pressures from Nokia and Google”

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.”

Agreed.

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.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

7 replies on “Vodafone kills Wayfinder citing “competitive pressures from Nokia and Google””

I understand that Nokia and Android phones form a large part of Vodafones sales, but what about the other phones they sell? The millions of other phones? One way to compete with free is to make your own service free and use it to drag customers through the door. It's as good a loss leader as I can think of.

Of course and it probably isn't worth the long term investment to try to keep up with what Nokia and Google already have in place, but if the philosophy surrounds a service being up to scratch, why does Voda persist with 360?

By the way, on a really anal note. I once got a ticking off from an editor for referring to companies in the plural sense and he said they should be singular. I notice you use plural for Vodafone and other companies. I'm still not convinced either way, but thought I would point it out.

I do agree with you — why continue with 360 when it's not up to scratch?

As for Vodafone, Vodafone's, Vodafoning … I need someone to tell me the right answer!

Even Nokia had to move to a free model on Maps navigation to compete with Google.

Wayfinder should have looked to new revenue streams, the stuff that Waze is doing with maps is really innovative and working out extremely well for them.

I hope they learn from their mistakes and stop trying to make these half arsed 'me too”' services (like 360) unless they really can get the experience better than the market leaders

It's very unfortunate for all Wayfinder's customers to see a good and pioneering product go. However, the blind users of Wayfinder Access, the Wayfinder Product that revolutionized independent travel for thousands of blind pedestrians by giving them an overview of their surroundings and turn-by-turn instructions to walk an unknown route. For those users there is no alternative comparable to wayfinder access, so many people who like me can walk everywhere thanks to Access will soon be trown back in time and be reintroduced to getting lost and hour-long route learning drills.
If you agree Vodafone should do something to help the users of this unique product please sign our petition at http://www.talknav.com/protest!

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