I got a new mobile phone this week, and I’ve spent a fair bit of the time since then playing around with different programs and applications that are available for it. The killer app in smart phones for me is gps tracking. Using google maps, getting turn-by-turn directions and geotagging photos and notes are all incredibly useful features to have. Furthermore, it is the gps feature that will drive the augmented reality apps that are going to be the really cool things to have on our smart phones in a couple of years.
All of this got me thinking about something – Magellan introduced the first consumer gps tracking unit in 1989. Why didn’t a gps manufacturer ever introduce an app store? Many of the things that we’re doing now on smart phones could have been done on a handheld gps unit. So why didn’t Magellan or Garmin or someone think about making an open platform that anyone could program for?
I thought of this question while visiting some friends this weekend and one of them, a very good programmer, said that maybe they didn’t think to do it because they didn’t think it was their core business. That’s probably correct. On the other hand, if one of them had thought of it, maybe now they wouldn’t be quite so worried that everyone is asking ‘why do I need a gps when I have a phone?’
So here’s a few more questions – what product right now is like a gps in 1989? What non-core part of your current industry has the potential to expand rapidly? Finally, can you adapt your business model to take advantage of the answers to these questions?