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December 9, 2008

Vodafone buys sat-nav phone software

Plans to develop location-aware products and services with Wayfinder

By Jason Stamper

Vodafone Group has tabled a $30 million bid for the mapping and navigation software house of Wayfinder Systems, a Swedish company specialising in the navigation and location-based services space.

Wayfinder’s software enables a mobile phone to display maps and provide voice directions much in the same way as a dedicated in-car sat-nav device would.

The company has its roots as a development project at Ericsson in 1989. It has since launched a portfolio of location applications including its flagship Navigator line that pushes maps through the mobile Internet, and provides voice-guided navigation, traffic information and details on restaurants, gas stations and ATMs. 

The business also produces Wayfinder Earth, Access, and most recently Wayfinder Active for use in sports and outdoor fitness activities. Collectively the programmes are said to be on the handsets of two million users, distributed by Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Blackberry (RIM). The company also does business with numerous mobile phone operators including Airtel, Telenor, Telefonica, Vodafone, O2, AT&T and Orange.

Vodafone is expected to use the software to accelerate a branded suite of location-aware products and services, mostly likely around social networking and advertising.

All the mobile operators face stiff competition in this arena from the likes of Google and Apple.

Like Vodafone, Nokia is ramping location-based offerings following its $8.1bn acquisition of Navteq earlier this year, and is building in social location to point-of-interest information applications that rely directly or indirectly on Navteq’s mapping and location technology.

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Wayfinder shareholders have agreed to accept the 239 million Swedish kroner offer.

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