MySpace and Citysearch are jointly announcing MySpace Local this morning, a new MySpace property that brings Citysearch business listings directly into the MySpace community. According to Techcrunch’s Mike Arrington, who just broke the story, MySpace Local will launch in private beta this week, with a public launch in the United States in April.
Plenty of people have written off MySpace to Facebook and Citysearch to Yelp, but regardless, this is a big deal. MySpace Local will eventually include all Citysearch business listings, but will start off with restaurants, bars, and and “nightlife” listings. Listings will be syndicated to MySpace Local’s listing pages, including addresses, maps, hours of operation, etc., and MySpace users will be able to rate and review restaurants. When a user first logs in to MySpace Local the first thing they’ll see is rating and reviews from their MySpace friends. This is great. Not only does it make relevant information immediately visible to each user, but there is a Twitter-like real-time feel to it making information timely as well.
All listings are broken down into city pages for all major US cities with integrated local search functionality as well. Aside from the added traffic MySpace Local will bring to the MySpace domain in general, ‘city pages’ is where the dollars will flow in. Now instead of massive national advertisers with big budgets exclusively funding the initiative, smaller local advertisers will be able to bid on ad space as well. And you can bet that’s exactly what they’ll do.
The benefits to both companies are immediately apparent. In addition to Citysearch’s recent Facebook Connect integration which syndicates reviews and ratings to Facebook profiles, it’ll now have a visibly branded integration into the world’s second largest social network. And it’s likely that MySpace Local will add a large chunk of revenue to the coffers of both companies via an undisclosed revenue-sharing agreement.
Potentially more interesting to the readers of GPS Obsessed is planned integration in MySpace mobile products. With real-time Citysearch activity integrated into the MySpace activity feed, there’ll be all kinds of opportunity for real-world social interactions.
It’s tough to tell if this story is true or a ruse, but The Sun is reporting a British woman is bringing the old man to divorce court after finding his Range Rover parked outside another woman’s house on Google Street View. Both CNET and the UK’s Times Online have made mention of the story, which was apparently started as a joke by Idiot Forever. I’m inclined to believe this story is false for two reasons. One, not one publication has tracked down the offending image, and two, Idiot Forever’s explanation of the now-international practical joke is so long and complicated, it just couldn’t be made up. True or not, wives and girlfriends everywhere will be heading to Street View today to see if they can catch their significant others up to no good.
New Delhi-based MapmyIndia, a consumer navigation leader in India, has announced that it now offers India maps dedicated for Garmin GPS devices. MapmyIndia maps cover 202 Indian cities, 130, 000 towns and villages, 450, 000 points of interest, and provides navigation to 640, 000 unique destinations across the country.
This is a big deal for both Garmin and MapmyIndia. While India is ready for an LBS explosion due to a huge population and rapidly growing business infrastructure, both maps and portable navigation devices have been almost useless until now. While residents of India have been able to purchase Garmin GPS devices outside of the country, there has been no reliable maps to use with the GPS, defeating the purpose of having one in the first place. By partnering, Garmin will now have distribution access to a massive population it couldn’t previously serve. And MapmyIndia will have the opportunity to spearhead widespread adoption of consumer navigation services in a country that’s ready for LBS.
MasterCard and Blaze Mobile have partnered to offer a mobile payment initiative it hopes will drive consumer adoption. Using RFID stickers developed by Blaze Mobile, the initiative allows mobile phone owners with an attached sticker to pay for goods at over 141, 000 locations with MasterCard PayPass readers.
While mobile payments using RFID and even SMS have already caught on in countries like Japan, and in African countries with poor banking infrastructure, it’s not often used in North America. One of the major reasons is that most cellphones don’t have RFID chips embedded in them yet. Another major reason is that handset makers, banks, retailers and credit card companies haven’t found a business model that is mutually beneficial.
I think this could be the first step in widespread adoption of mobile payments in North America. In my opinion, carriers don’t have any incentive to offer RFID-embedded phones right now because there is no real mobile payment model in North America. And industry players don’t really have an incentive to develop a business model until they know consumers will adopt the technology. Its a classic chicken-and-egg problem.
With the availability of RFID stickers, and as long as MasterCard and Blaze Mobile make the initiative visible to the average Joe, consumers could become more comfortable with the idea of paying for things with their mobile phone and credit card information. MasterCard was smart in this case to allow consumers to place prepaid funds on a dedicated credit card. By doing this, MasterCard will hopefully help eliminate some of the privacy and identity theft concerns potential users will undoubtedly have. Hopefully if enough people try out the RFID sticker and become comfortable with it, a large enough consumer base will emerge demanding that RFID payment technology be available. Then, just maybe, mobile RFID payments will catch on in North America.
Microsoft has dumped 21 terabytes into Microsoft Virtual Earth this month, powering its Live Search Maps property with expanded coverage of a slew of countries. While Microsoft’s mapping properties tend to live in the shadow of Google Maps, Street View and Earth, I’ve always enjoyed Microsoft’s “Birds Eye” view which allows zooming between satellite imagery and near-street-level imagery. Contrast that with Google’s Earth and Street View. While Street View is extremely handy, it would be nice if you were able to zoom in and out and get a bit of an overhead view in order to better find your bearings. Right now you can’t, and using Google Earth you can’t zoom in close enough to really gain a feel for your surroundings. Hopefully this is something Google will improve upon in the future.
Google has announced Google Ventures, the company’s new venture capital arm that will invest in early-stage startups. Google says it plans to invest $100 million over the next 12 months across a wide range of industries including internet, cleantech, life sciences, and health care.
Android founder Rich Miner will co-manage Google Ventures with Google employee William Maris, and the fund will be overseen by Google’s senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, David Drummond.
Google says the purpose of the fund will be to turn a profit and its first two investments are Silver Spring Networks, a company that develops technology to manage electric grids, and Pixazza, a startup that connects online images to product purchases. Google hasn’t disclosed how much it invested in either company.
Given Google’s interest in location-based services it’ll be interesting to see if it makes any LBS investments over the next year. You can find more information at Google Ventures.
Clearwire has officially announced the Clear Spot Personal Hotspot today, a portable, battery-powered router that enables any Wi-Fi device to connect to the Clear WiMAX network. Manufactured by Cradlepoint, the Clear Spot connects to the Clear USB modem, creating a personal broadband hotspot for up to eight 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi devices and enabling download speeds of up to 4 Mbps. The device, which we actually expected to be released last month in a puck form factor, looks more like a rectangle and will be available in early April for $149 plus $49 for the Clear USB modem.
Will Networks In Motion provide the first GPS application for the Blackberry App World? It seems so. Blackberry’s application store, which is rumored to be announced tomorrow, will apparently launch with a Network In Motion GPS app. That’s right, no Verizon Navigator or other carrier version that uses NIM technology. I believe this is the first NIM-branded turn-by-turn GPS application for mobile–I may be wrong–and the first to use real-time traffic information from its TrafficGauge acquisition earlier this month. I’m not sure what pricing will be like, but it’ll probably be a flat fee followed by some sort of subscription plan.
According to Lazard Capital Markets analyst Daniel Amir, Apple is gearing up to produce a low-end 3G iPhone version and a higher-end 32 GB flash memory version. In a research report released today citing information from channel partners, Amir states that the low-end version may only be available in Brazil, Russia, India and China, while the 32 GB iPhone will ship in North America and Europe.
Microsoft has unveiled a few more details about its Windows Marketplace for Mobile application store and upcoming Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. Twenty-seven prominent names in the mobile application industry have pledged support for Windows Marketplace including Facebook, MySpace, Zagat, EA Mobile, Gameloft, Netflix and Pandora. All of the companies will have applications available when Windows Marketplace launches this year. MySpace will also release a mobile version of its social network for Windows Mobile 6.1, with pre-installation on all of LG’s Windows phones.
From a consumer perspective, Windows Mobile users will be able to purchase applications using their credit cards or by charging them directly to their phone bills. The latter feature differs from Apple’s App Store which doesn’t provide carrier support. I think this is a good move on Microsoft’s part as it opens the door to application purchases to those without credit cards, plus it allows the opportunity for impulse purchases by customers. Carriers will also be able to create branded pages within the storefront to sell their own applications and services. Furthermore, buyers will have 24 hours to try and application and return it, a feature that iPhone users have called for since the App Store launched last summer. Contrary to rumors, application developers will not have to pay to update their applications.
It also appears that Microsoft is taking a page out of Modu Mobile’s playbook with a specific focus on personalization. The mobile phone is an accessory for most of us, akin to a wallet, purse, or pair of shoes, and as such Microsoft has purchased the services of famous product designer Isaac Mizrahi to develop customized themes for Windows Mobile phones. The company will also add the services of Design Museum London and Council of Fashion Designers of America to its design portfolio. Later this year when Microsoft rolls out its Theme Generator, Windows Mobile users will also be able to create their own themes by porting pictures from their PC’s.