Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Smit N Shah

Article # 2
Billboards in the virtual world

Almost all travelers in todays day and age use the internet to get directions from one location to another. About a decade back was the only free provider of directions to online users. Microsoft came up with MapPoint but the service was not free and the software cost a bundle. But since Google launched Google Maps(based on the original product by keyhole, which Google purchased), its been a different exprience for the online users. Google maps provides quick easy and precise directions from one location to another. Their maps load quickly, the user interface is more intuitive and there is minimum clutter (unwanted advertisements) on the page. Google Maps currently only provide maps in a 2D (Two Dimentional). To be able to view maps in 3D you need to install Google Earth on your machine. They also integrated local resturants, movie places, hotels etc. in Google Earth which makes the product lore valuable to users. Microsoft realizing this potential customer base launched its MapPoint service under the new concept that it has been trying to push. Their product Live Maps provides 2D images similar to Google Maps. They continue to have a rich user interface which makes the exprience better. They also added a new feature, which currently google does not have, called 3D. It requires the user installing a small software which will enable them to view 3D maps from within their website. In order to generate revenue and continue to provide this service for free, Microsoft inserts relevant advertisements into map. For example: if you are searching for an address, you will also see advertisements for hotels, that look like billboards on the map indicating that there is a hotel nearby the address, it will also provide information about the hotel on that billboard. They plan to extend this concept to city maps used in games like Grand Theft Auto (GTA) where the game could have such billboards of actual companies and help drive down the cost of developing the actual game. Hence driving down costs and creating value for customers.

This is a fairly new concept where the users view advertisements on maps and games. The information is non-intrusive hence users would not dislike its existance. The idea is to create value for customers, and by using marketing/sales models that help increase revenue at no additional cost to the users seems to be suitable for software services industry. The 3D rendering of information made it easier to understand and more human-like. This is a huge market with a lot of users who are always interested in better information. This product provides information specific to a location hence making it more direct to a user as apposed to random advertisements.

This strategy is fairly new and still in Beta by Microsoft. It is too early to comment on wether it would succeed at its goal or not. But based on the past trends that Google has set, it seems reasonable to say that Microsoft's idea of a 3D virtual billboard of the future will be successfull.


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