What’s Next for Skyhook Wireless? Location Tech for Games, E-Books, and, Yes, Android Phones

3/16/11Follow @gthuang

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directly with Android app developers, such as Priceline and Citysearch (whose apps use Skyhook’s technology). “We will get on every Android phone one way or another,” Morgan says. “It’s a harder approach, but we’ll get there.”

Morgan says Skyhook is “probably in the first or second inning of a [legal] fight with a company that wants to drag it out as long as possible. It’s unfortunate, but it also brings to light [Google’s] behavior which is in contrast to their stated position of being open and not evil.” He adds, “The capital we have is enough to play that out.”

Maybe so, but it’s hard to spend that kind of time and money when you’re a small company. As for the iPhone/iPad situation, Morgan was reassuring. “From a business and customer standpoint, nothing’s changed with Apple. For strategic reasons, they want more control. They’re still our largest customer financially,” he says.

But he notes that Apple and Google are among a small group of tech giants that are “looking to carve up the world” of mobile. “Apple and Google could be a duopoly, like Verizon and AT&T,” he says.

OK, so what is Skyhook doing to stay ahead of these giants? Lots of things. For starters, the firm is positioning itself as the go-to location tech provider for handheld game platforms. Skyhook’s arrangement with Sony Computer Entertainment’s forthcoming “NGP” gaming system could be among the company’s most lucrative deals, Morgan says. Skyhook is also moving into other types of devices—such as laptops, netbooks, e-book readers, and digital cameras. (The latter two should happen later this year; Skyhook is already in camera phones and SD memory cards used in cameras.)

You might wonder why an e-book reader (like the Amazon Kindle) would need to be location-aware. Morgan gives a couple examples: you might want to see the top five books being read around you at any given time, say, or be able to call up reference materials about your immediate surroundings, whether you’re at the beach on Cape Cod or strolling through South Boston. And the same idea could apply to other kinds of mobile apps and content on any device—adding location awareness could make it inherently more engaging, interactive, and social (not to mention attractive to local advertisers).

As long as devices with the location tech sell, Skyhook should be in good shape, since it … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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