Apple changed the music industry with iTunes. Might smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, Nokia, Motorola and RIM or mobile operating-system providers like Apple, Google or Microsoft disrupt the travel industry by weaving themselves into the fabric of travel distribution?
Mobile trip-management company WorldMate is "deeply involved" with multiple parties "in the mobile landscape" which are seeking to embed travel services from mobile check-in to last-minute travel purchases into their core operating systems, says Chief Commercial Officer Nadav Gur.
Gur says the players include smartphone manufacturers which are looking to travel -- and talking with online travel agencies and other distribution parties -- as a substantial revenue stream to offset margin pressure on smartphone manufacturing and services.
Gur, who was the founding CEO of Worldmate, says he expects one smartphone manufacturer to launch a deeply integrated travel product this year.
WorldMate, which offers trip-management services and competes against TripIt, TripCase, Kayak Trips and others, claims to have the largest user base in the crowd, although the company is relatively short on brand recognition in North America.
The smartphone players seeking to get involved in travel are not talking about building apps and linking to third parties for trip-planning, but seek to embed travel services and booking off-the shelf into their devices.
With the cash that some of these giant device manufacturers have available, it isn't inconceivable that they could be looking at acquiring an OTA, with their smaller market caps -- even an Expedia or Priceline -- as they seek to shake up the market and move their plans forward.
WorldMate's role with the smartphone manufacturers or mobile operating-system providers is to provide them with technology expertise and the business acumen necessary to break into the travel industry.
Privately held WorldMate has investments from Motorola Ventures and the Blackberry Partners Fund, but Gur says don't necessarily use those relationships to read the tea leaves about which mobile partners WorldMate is involved with.
So why would a major smartphone manufacturer, like Apple or Motorola or Nokia, need WorldMate as an entrée into the travel industry?
Gur says having a first-mover advantage might be critical, and perhaps WorldMate might trim six to nine months off the delivery process for its partners.
The last-minute travel arena might be a key focus of some of these mobile players because of the nature of their devices. They can push hotel or car-rental offers to travelers at airports, for instance, especially if there are flight delays or cancellations.
With many people saying that mobile devices may eventually replace the PC as the primary means for browsing the Web and booking travel, perhaps smartphone manufacturers and mobile-operating system providers will play a huge role in changing travel distribution as we know it.
Gur, citing confidentiality agreements, declined to identify WorldMate's partners in the new mobile-travel push.