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The (Geo) Data Dichotomy Dilemma

tags: cloudmade,data,geo,google,microsoft,navteq,nokia,openstreetmap,teleatlas,tomtom,yahoo category: blog link: description: type: text has_math: no status: published

Before Web 2.0, before mashups, before FreeOurData.org.uk and other pleas, before the Internet itself, things used to be so much simpler for geo data. You were either an end user and accessed the data as a map or you were a GIS Professional and accessed the data via a (frequently very expensive and very specialised) Geographical Information System. But now we have geo data, lots of geo data, some of it free, some of it far from free, both in terms of usage and cost and a fundamental problem has replaced the paucity of data.

Everyone wants free, open, high quality geo data and no one wants to pay for it. But it's not quite that simple.

The recent acquisitions of Tele Atlas and Navteq, the two big global geo data providers, by TomTom and Nokia respectively show the inherent value in owning data. But owning the data isn't enough any more as the market for licensing the data is a shrinking one, despite the phenomenal growth of the satnav market, both in car and on mobile handsets. Why is the market shrinking? Because no one wants to pay for it, at least directly. TomTom, primarily a hardware vendor, are differentiating into the software and data market,  seems to be concentrating on the PND usage of the data, although we've yet to see how the outlay necessary to acquire Tele Atlas coupled with the overall economic downturn will effect their overall 2009 earnings. Their Q1 2009 report somewhat dryly notes that "market conditions were challenging" and that "we are making clear progress with the transformation of Tele Atlas into a focused business to business digital content and services production company". There may be other aspirations at play here but for now at least, the company is keeping quiet.