Skyhook: Location a Gateway to Community

I caught up with Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook Wireless, and he gave me a preview of some exciting stuff to come out of the Boston-based firm. However I'm forbidden from discussing any of it right now.

We also spoke about the state of the major smartphone platforms and Morgan gave me some visibility into app developer perspectives on each of them. "It's not that different writing code for HTML5 apps vs. a native app." 

We also got into Windows 7, the iPad, Apple vs. Google and some other juicy and off-the-record topics. 

Skyhook provides location technology for the iPhone and most of the major location apps on the various smartphone platforms, although most of the action, from Skyhook's point of view is still on the iPhone. Skyhook in one way or another is seeing the activity on 80 million devices across North America, Europe and Asia and the company is sitting on a mountain of interesting data as a result. 

Morgan told me that Skyhook's servers see 300 million location lookups every day. Yet only about 5% of the apps across the apps stores are location aware. In particular Morgan said that there were about 8,000 location-enabled apps in the iTunes store, out of roughly 160,000 total. That's a kind of a paradox if one operates from the premise that location is at the heart of the mobile experience. 

Morgan discussed another more subtle and complex use for location on mobile devices, beyond finding places and people. He sees a location layer or location awareness as a way to build community: for example, news apps or music apps that show what's popular in a particular geography. Location is a layer or aspect but not the center of the experience necessarily. 

Morgan believes that learning about what people near and around you think is valuable or interesting can help these apps and sites build community and loyalty. Location becomes a basis for community because it makes the abstractions of news, photos, music more concrete in a local or offline context. Location offers a shared circumstance that can enable people to discover and connect with one another. 

With community and loyalty, Morgan believes, come new opportunities for monetization as well.