Tim O'Reilly and Where 2.0 conference co-chair Nat Torkington held a conference call last week for journalists looking to get a leg up on what to expect from the new event when it opens in San Francisco on June 29.
The "2.0" refers to the electronic generation of mapping and location technology as compared to how mapping was done historically (1.0). O’Reilly said that he has seen a spike in early adopter activity and said that the time was ripe for a conference to showcase the bleeding edge. He then gave plenty of examples. Amazon’s A9 search engine recently sent a car across the nation equipped with GPS and cameras to collect images of storefronts in effort to produce a "visual-based yellow pages." GPS in cell phones is also gaining some traction, O'Reilly said, pointing out interest in geocaching, which are treasure hunts played with GPS devices that are used to locate the coordinates of "prize" caches all over the world.
O’Reilly also pointed out the growth of Internet portals offering new mapping services, chiefly Google Maps. “There is a big concept that hit my radar…the idea that data is the INTEL inside,” he said. He called Google and Amazon "Internet-scale applications" that give users self-service access to a database. The key to success for these sites is getting users to enhance the commodity data. In the mapping space, however, the established players, such as MapQuest, didn't give users more control, so that gave power to new entrants, like database provider Navteq, which licenses its content to sites like Google.
"The XML was available to developers, so we got an explosion of hacker activity building mash-ups of websites. The next generation of apps will be synthetic that’ll draw data and functionality from multiple sites, and it's happening first in the mapping space," said O’Reilly. "Maps as interface is a real interesting area."
When asked what the big stories are going to be, Torkington said that Microsoft is going to respond to the competition and raise the ante with enhancements to MSN Virtual Earth. "They will show things that will blow your mind," he said. He added that with the stakes raised, expect to see more attention toward suppliers like Navteq, who be at the show.
Udpate 6/07/05: Here is the transcript of the telephone conference.