Final Case Study Preview: Rand McNally, MapQuest, and TeleNav

The Power of Mobility should be hitting store shelves within the next couple of weeks, so it’s time for me to wrap up my previews of case studies included in the book.

To highlight the opportunity to build mobility into products, I featured case studies of three companies all in the navigation space, but approaching it from very different starting points. My original plan had been to feature four companies: one that dated back to pre-PC days; one that was born from leveraging Moore’s Law into navigation; one that was created in the Internet revolution; and finally one that been formed as a pure-play mobility company. However, my neighbors down the street, chose not to participate in the book. I’m still pleased with what we can learn from the other three.

I recommend reading the full case studies in the book, but here’s my key takeaway from the exercise. Mobility creates new and unique value, no matter from where you’re starting.

Take Rand McNally & Company, for example. When I think of paper maps, I think of Rand McNally. The company’s been around for more than 150 years and their maps are used in 98% of schools in America. Most of us grew up navigating using Rand McNally products. We know how to look up a destination, find the grid coordinates (e.g. B-3) and find the destination on the map. As Rand McNally has continued it’s leadership into the PC era (their StreetFinder products), the Internet (randmcnally.com), and now into Mobility, they have found the strengths of each and leveraged their starting point. All of their products use the familiar grid system as a common reference point, enabling customers to easily move from research on the web, to charting a cross-country road trip in the road atlas, to finding a restaurant in an otherwise unfamiliar town on a mobile phone. Bottom line, the company has found ways to capture the new power introduced in each technology revolution, while extending the value of their existing products. To Rand McNally, “legacy” is a good thing.

Similarly, MapQuest – launched in 1996 – is the leading web-based navigation service with 54 million users. The company recognizes the new value represented by Mobility. The challenge is in how to interconnect those 54 million desk-bound users to a mobile experience. MapQuest has focused on the different ways that their audience uses different tools. Sitting at a desk with a big web screen is a great place to plan a trip. MapQuest has made it easy for users to transfer that planned trip to their mobile device and then get real time directions and additional information while actually on the go. Of course, one of the new challenges for Internet companies like MapQuest, is how to translate their ad-based business model into the mobility age. Limited screen real estate certainly creates challenges, but mobility provides context-based opportunities that are intriguing to the company. You can read more about it in the book.

Finally, TeleNav. H.P. Jin, the company’s founder and CEO, likes to tell the story of the founding of TeleNav. For years he had believed in the promise of GPS technology. But it wasn’t until the FCC ruled in favor of including GPS chipsets in mobile phones to support E911 that H.P. translated that belief into a business plan. What TeleNav introduced was a product that was functionally comparable to expensive standalone navigation devices (from companies like Garmin and Tom Tom), but with a disruptive operating model. For starters, much of the hardware cost was being covered by someone else. The cellphone subscriber was already buying an electronic device with a GPS chipset, a microprocessor, a display screen, a speaker, and a keypad for entering information. TeleNav’s only cost contribution was the software that ran on the device to turn it into a navigation system. So, while consumers had to wrestle with spending hundreds of dollars to purchase a standalone device (wondering whether they’d really use it), TeleNav introduced a pricing model with no upfront cost and only a $10/month service fee – which could be cancelled at any time. Suddenly, the decision for consumers became much easier. Furthermore, since a cellphone, by definition, is a networked device, TeleNav’s products benefit from the most up to date maps, construction delays, traffic updates, and even the location of the cheapest gas. Standalone navigation device manufacturers have worked hard to bring down their prices and integrate similar real-time information, but for TeleNav, built on the principals of the mobility revolution, pushing the model forward comes naturally.

Keep a watch out for the book. It should start appearing everywhere soon!

2 Responses to “Final Case Study Preview: Rand McNally, MapQuest, and TeleNav”

  1. […] within their industries by building mobility into products (Amazon Kindle, Musco Lighting, TeleNav), services (PODS, Montclair State University), and processes (Avis). Taking revolutionary steps to […]

  2. […] an incredibly accurate watch with very inexpensive components. Similarly, I’ve often told the story of TeleNav, a company that replaced expensive GPS navigation electronics with software on a mobile phone […]

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