AvantGo Takes Travel Info On the Go

Article ImageAvantGo, a service of the Sybase Inc. subsidiary iAnywhere Solutions, is moving fast in its efforts to push mobile content forward. The company beta launched the AvantGo Travel Tab at the end of May, with the specific intention of assisting its business traveler clientele. The project began last year when focus groups of business travelers around the world were asked how they use mobile technology and what they find important. Overwhelmingly, their number one request was mapping; many also mentioned the importance of accessing their travel itinerary via a mobile.

What makes the AvantGo Travel Tab unique is the combination of services it provides; users can pull their itinerary as well as maps, restaurants, shopping information, and other information. The service is designed to "allow the user to customize their travel experience," says Neil Versen, senior director of AvantGo for iAnywhere. The trick, however, was to make the service work not just for users, but also for travel companies and others that partner with AvantGo in order to provide a robust range of products within the Tab.

As of the May 24, 2005 beta launch date, partners include Expedia, Travelocity, Sabre Services' Virtually There, United Airlines, and Northwest Airlines "What's really exciting about this," says Versen, is that "of the top three brands on the Web for travel, we have two of them: Travelocity and Expedia." MapPoint provides directions and mapping for users, AccuWeather offers forecasts, and Wcities, a provider of location-based information covering 1,900 cities around the world, offers information on events, hotels, restaurants, attractions, bars, and shopping.

The company plans to expand dramatically to include services such as rental cars or local restaurant guides along the lines of the Zagat guide or Fodors. And each partner's information is prominently branded so "you're not only picking the content, you're choosing the brand under which it appears," explains Versen.

Although the Travel Tab is launching with only a few of the possible services it may eventually offer, Versen explains that that is a part of the strategy to get the service out the door quickly, "starting with the primary touch points important to travelers" and expanding from there, with the possible addition of premium content. While "our first goal is to launch North America," says Versen, AvantGo also plans to move forward with a European strategy in the third quarter of 2005.

To become an AvantGo user, visitors sign up for a free subscription and register by answering approximately 16 to 18 detailed demographic questions. Questions run along the lines of the industry in which a visitor works, age, income, gender, etc., and responses are used primarily to target advertisers. Once registered, users can access the AvantGo Travel Tab via all wireless PDAs and smartphone devices. It will also be available for RIM devices later this year and the Travel Tab is tentatively scheduled for generally availability in the third quarter of 2005.

(www.avantgo.com; www.sybase.com)