Intel Acquires a Location Platform

Not this type of platform...

As part of the keynote address at the AppUp Elements Conference, Intel announced that they had agreed to acquire Telmap, the Israel-based location platform that has supplied navigation and mapping to many wireless carriers including O2, Vodafone, Orange and others. The reported price was $300M or so. If true, that’s a great result for Telmap. They’re good guys and have been at it for a while, so congratulations.

Update Oct 8, 2011:  There is a lot of skepticism about this number. Telmap had reported revenue of $30M, which makes a $300M acquisition seem unlikely. For comparison, NIM was bought at closer to 2-3X revenues).

There are two stories here.

The less interesting one is that Intel felt that they needed maps, location and local search in order to offer developers a “complete” application ecosystem.  I think that’s been pretty well established by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and Samsung.  Application developers expect to be able to integrate mapping, navigation and local search solutions so you either need to have it yourself (Google, Microsoft, Nokia) or get it from someone else (Apple (Google), Samsung (deCarta)).
The more interesting point is contained in this statement from Intel:
“These new cross-platform location capabilities will allow developers to not just retain their users but delight them via in-app and in-experience location features that they just can’t really do today.”
Intel is pointing out the potential threat to developers from the “free” mapping API’s; namely that along with free-ness, comes a loss on understanding of customer context, a loss of ability to monetize that engagement through marketing and potentially, a loss of customers altogether. In short, while the app developers get fantastic mapping and location capabilities for no charge, they potentially give up a lot of the core value from their customer base. In the name of ease of use and fast time to market, developers have been using maps from the big guys even though that use takes their customers out of their app environment and into one the belongs to someone who just may not want to give them back.  And as the terms from those mapping providers turn from “free” to “not quite as free as you thought”, it becomes pretty hard to get off the drug.

So Intel made the call that they could differentiate their AppUp ecosystem by letting developers keep control of the customer even if (as they implicitly admitted) they can’t compete feature for feature with Google or Microsoft. I don’t think Intel will be the last to come to this conclusion.

Note: The shoes above are not mine.  However, I did once have a similar pair bought on a youthful trip to England during an earlier era.  It was not a good look….as my father frequently reminds me.