Location-Based Services Coming Soon (says a long-time naysayer)

For years, I’ve heard that location-based services are just around the corner. “Later this year.”

For years, I’ve told clients, “Not for years.”

Especially when they want to do marketing by taking advantage of LBS.

Emphasis needs to be on “services” first, providing something the user wants. That has to be in place before there is an opportunity to market through LBS, and even then, privacy and other considerations will dictate the the marketing message delivers real value. The best marketing isn’t a message you want consumers to hear, it’s value you provide in some service, entertainment or education that they want.

Even if it becomes technically possible, I’m never going to want a coupon for a latte to pop up as an ad on my mobile just because I’ve walked by a Starbucks. That’s the kind of thinking that drove carriers to charge per-lookup fees for location, hoping to get revenue streams from both the end-user and from brands.

I might be interested in location giving additional contextual relevance to my search results. There are lots of really cool things I might do with location that no one has thought of yet.

Anyway, Mashable is right to suggest that iPhone 3g is game-changing in LBS.

The new pricing model for the iPhone 3g with GPS along with the forthcoming App Store make for a perfect storm coming. Developers have a great platform and now are freed from old constraints to think first and foremost of what services users will want.

No longer will they be constrained by rather than thinking of how be ad-supported (or how to cut deals with handset manufacturers or carriers).

For the first time in the history of mobile, a significant base of users will have everything needed and developers can take advantage of this to offer new applications and to incorporate location seamlessly. This will open many new possibilities, not all of which we can predict now.

Most of these, we won’t think of as location apps. They’ll just be apps that also take advantage of location.

In the same way, I hope we’ll see innovative LBS marketing that consumers won’t think of as marketing or advertising. Those will be the stand out successes.

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