MapQuest Enhances Mobile Mapping Products

MapQuest announced a series of mobile mapping and search enhancements today, meant to leverage the company’s leading position in online mapping. The company held a 68 percent market stake in November compared to Google Maps’ 28 percent and Yahoo! Maps’ 27 percent, according to Nielsen.

First off, its MapQuest Mobile product will upgrade to version 2.5, including multipoint routing, walking directions, and 15 million points of interest.

These are all features currently available in MapQuest’s online mapping engine which it would like to bring to the mobile environment. The company’s point of interest search for one (ability to find landmarks and tourist destinations compared to only business listings) is a differentiating factor that has helped it develop and maintain its commanding market share lead.

It has done this, among other ways, by getting creative and tapping into government data sources to index locations of schools, post offices, public parks and other points of interest left behind by some mapping engines.

So far it has been able to carry this lead over into its mobile products. MapQuest mobile is compatible with 250 different cell phones from 12 carriers and it’s currently the top revenue generating mobile search download in the U.S. according to Telephia

“We need to extend our reach and be on as many devices as possible,” said Alan Beigai, Mapquest Director of Wireless, during a product briefing earlier in the week. “Our goal is also to fine tune content and functionality of mobile applications to match that of the online experience.” These thoughts were echoed by MapQuest VP and GM Jim Greiner who was a featured speaker at The Kelsey Group’s recent MapQuest Navigator mobile mapping product available on Blackberries from Sprint and Nextel. Compared to MapQuest Mobile, Navigator is a more enhanced platform for GPS enabled devices and smart phones. It features text and audio turn-by-turn directions and is marketed as having all of the functionality of an in-car navigation system in smaller (and cheaper) package.

MapQuest should get increased traction for Navigator with this increased availability and with the rising adoption of smart phones. Beigai agrees that existing smart phone users (particularly blackberry users) represent a technically savvy subset that are more likely to download and use the product than the broader mobile device user population.

“It’s a prime segment for us to tap into,” he says.

Interestingly, navigation systems (like smart phones) are coming down in price and Yahoo! this week revealed plans to plant itself “on the dash”.

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