How Google Maps Made The Navigation Industry “Sweat”

The arrival of contemporary smartphones and mobile apps in the late 2000s didn't just fundamentally change what consumers expect from their handsets, it also ended up disrupting a wide variety of industries, with mobile navigation being its first target. Founded in 1999, Santa Clara, California-based Telenav was enjoying a relatively successful first decade of existence, having worked with major U.S. carriers such as AT&T and Sprint on offering navigation services. Following the arrival of Google Maps, it suddenly found itself having to rethink its flagship product after after Google's solution, offering a comparable navigation service free of charge, became available on every new smartphone. "It made the industry sweat quite a bit at the time," Telenav Executive Director of Strategy Ky Tang recalled in an interview with Android Headlines, asserting Google Maps had changed the navigation game significantly. At a time when smartphones were enjoying massive global momentum, Telenav had just become a publicly traded company, having been listed on NASDAQ in May of 2010 under the ticker "TNAV."

Its main product, Scout GPS, was a navigation service priced at $10 per month. However, the growing popularity of Google Maps made it "not easy" for the firm to cope without revamping its main business model, Mr. Tang recalled. "We started looking at new ways to monetize, aside from our core navigation, and that's how Telenav's mobile ads began," with the firm's initial response to Google Maps being in-app advertising. In the following years, the company made several acquisitions; it purchased Skobbler to create advanced map technology for professionals and enthusiasts, and location-based advertising provider Thinknear to diversify its portfolio, as well as monetize its existing Scout GPS customers and over hundreds of millions of other mobile users.

Around that time, Telenav partnered with Ford on its Sync 1 platform, having supplied its technologies to the automaker, allowing it to deliver a contemporary navigation solution to its customers without building one from the ground up. Since then, Telenav has continued to collaborate with Ford on Sync 2 and Sync 3, in addition to the likes of GM and Toyota. It now does business across the globe, providing both connected-embedded and "brought-in" mobile phone solutions. It continues doing business in the smartphone segment and has become a major player in the connected-car industry as well, having hence successfully weathered through the Google Maps storm, unlike many other firms.

About a decade after being on the receiving end of a highly disruptive product, Telenav hopes to become the disruptor, having introduced its In-Car Advertising Platform that it's describing as a game changer at this year's CES. In essence, its new solution is meant to allow auto OEMs to offer a broad range of in-car services free of charge and monetize them through advertising, taking the ad-based business model from the mobile space to the in-vehicle tech segment.

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