GIS Thoughts

Business model wars

I lead a session at the Ordnance Survey Partner conference last week discussing our future geoweb services plans, and not surprising the main topic of discussion was business models.

Nobody in the industry today really knows what will happen in the market, I in the past have often drawn parallels with the download music market and with the recent launch of the Yahoo Music Unlimited service it’s interesting to watch this business model dynamic as a potential indicator for future geoweb services.

The established market leader here is Apples’ iTunes Music store which sells tracks at £0.79 or $0.99 each – the transactional model. Once bought the tracks are available for use on a limited number of computers and your ipod forever.

The alternative business model of subscription based pricing has been supported up to now by Napster and Realnetworks but they have been eclipsed by the new Yahoo offering.
The yahoo offering provides unlimited access to an online music catalogue for an amazing $6.99 a month ( the service is not available outside the USA). Tracks may be downloaded to other devices but will only be playable as long as you keep paying the subscription.

Which model will win? The industry pundits are falling over themselves with contrary predictions, nobody seems to think both models will survive, but I’m not so sure!

I think it depends too much on the very different buying habits of consumers, regular buyers may go for the subscription model for example, while less frequent buyers like myself will chose to buy each track. There are big differences for the service provider in terms of the cost of service of course, however the past ten years must have taught us that the customer is now in charge and will vote with their feet.

I think the same will also be true of geoweb services.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

5 replies on “Business model wars”

Glad you liked ‘Balalaikas in Blackpool’. It was a fun story to do.

Kind regards

Henry Dodds

I’ve been studying these fascinating maps for some time. I published a story in April edition of Sheetlines (journal of Charles Close Society) describing the scope and scale of the Soviet global mapping project and how they went about it.
There’s a follow up in the next edition (August) examining the British town plans in particular and to what extent, if any, they are based on OS material.
There will be a ‘Study Day’ in Cambridge on Sat 8 October 2005 with speakers, exhibition and discussion forum, at which I will present the evidence and show examples of the Soviet maps and relevant OS maps, etc. Anybody wishing to attend should contact me at
I’d also like to contact Henry Dodds to invite him to attend, but have been unable to contact him via BBC. It looks as if you have contact info for him, so I’d be very grateful if you would either pass this to him or give me his email address.
Kind regards
John Davies (020 8504 1766)

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