EU accused Google of setting its own search engine as a default search tool on Android devices and pre-installing Google’s own apps such as Maps and Play Store, which effectively blocked the competition.
That’s exactly the same complaint Korean domestic internet companies filed for KFTC. After a few years of investigations, KFTC decided that Google was not guilty of antitrust law in Korea in 2013.
Some Korean media opened fire for KFTC arguing that it should have accused Google of antitrust activities. KFTC was not strong enough in pushing Google for levying punishment, the sentiment goes.
At that time, KFTC found Google not guilty because smartphone users can switch to other search engines or apps with a single touch. The fact that Korean tech companies including Naver, Daum and Kakao continuously increased its presence despite the Android’s dominant in Korean market also influenced KFTC’s decision.
(Though they all had hard times in competing with mobile super-power Google, and Daum got caught by Google in terms of the share of mobile search queries.)
It’s hard to tell whether Google was fair or unfair enough in playing their mobile game.
But one thing for sure is that Europe has nothing to lose even if they charged Google or get some burden for tech companies.
While there are no European tech companies to compete with Google, Microsoft or Apple, Korea has some strong domestic alternatives for them. Naver is a far-front leading search engine with more than 70% of market share. Kakao attracted virtually every Korean smartphone users with its mobile messenger KakaoTalk.
And Samsung, hands in hands with Google, emerged as a number 1 smartphone manufacturer both in Korean and global market. Those are among some reasons KFTC made a different decision 3 years ago with that of EU today for virtually identical issues.
Chances are KFTC may review their decision in comparison with EU, it doesn’t seem Korean tech companies will be very interested in the antitrust issue.
Naver is a time-proven leader in a search engine and busy for expanding its Line business to abroad. Kakao is struggling for its new on-demand drive, and Daum was acquired by Kakao. No time for looking behind?
They revamped the design of Kim-gisa, which means ‘chauffeur Kim’ in Korean and whose developer LocAndAll was acquired by Kakao for 62.6 billion Won (about 50 million dollars) for 100% stake last year.
Now Kim-gisa got that friendly Kakao-themed skin and relaunched as ‘Kakao Navi’.
While you can see the familiar Kaka0-yellow and Kakao Friends characters on your new Kakao Navi, the app lets you share the destinations and arrival times.
Kakao said on Wednesday that its best feature is a system that allows users to share information. The company said Kimgisa’s traffic information collection system gathers real-time details, including ongoing events and traffic conditions. Users can share their current location, destination and expected arrival time to people registered as KakaoTalk friends. Through KakaoTalk, friends can receive texted directions to a destination without downloading the navigation app.
The social features (, which they like to promote with such PR terms like ‘share’ and ‘openness’) do not seem very new and jaw-dropping.
We want your routes
Still it’s worth noting that they launched Kakao Navi while they try to get into your ‘move’ with transportation-related mobile apps like Kakao Taxi and expected Kakao Driver. They are part of Kakao’s O2O strategy aiming for connecting everyone and everything on and offline.
Taxi-hailing app Kakao Taxi was a great success Kakao has long awaited for years, hitting 57 million accumulated calls and 210 thousand driver users in 9 months since launch. The app used then-Kim-gisa for its navigator for drivers and Kakao Navi now receives real-time traffic information from taxis that use Kakao Taxi.
Kakao is also expected to launch Kakao Driver as early as May, which connects private one-time drivers with those who drink at dinner and want to come back home with their car.
To get what it is, you need to understand so-called ‘substitute driver service’ first. Say you drink a lot at a party, and have a car with you. You don’t want to drunk drive and your driver’s license suspended.
You can call the substitute driver service company and they connect you a driver who will drive your car and take you at backseat home. As a country famous (or notorious) for its exciting nights, the market for substitute driver service is estimated as much as 3 trillion Won (about 24 billion dollars), composed of thousands of small companies and tens of thousands of drivers.
It’s part of Kakao’s O2O strategies
With these transportation apps, Kakao expects complete dominance on your moves and routes. They know where you are, and where you are going when.
The real-time data collected from these apps increasingly improve not only the accuracy and efficiency of individual dispatch but also Kakao’s overall understanding of movements of people. You know it’s precious.
Kakao now wants to make money from so-called O2O or on-demand services. Knowing your routes is essential to facilitate O2O services, which need logistics and last-mile contacts.
Kakao Driver is also expected to earn rapid money Kakao needs. Some analysts estimate that Kakao would earn 100 billion Won (about 80 million dollars) per year through matching fee when it begins the substitute driver business.
Kakao didn’t monetize Kakao Navi and Kakao Taxi, but Kakao Driver is easy to monetize because everybody is already so accustomed to paying for substitute drivers.
It may be a breeze for Kakao, whose revenue went down last year with the decline of mobile game and advertisement business.
Update. Kakao acquired 100% share of Park Square for an undisclosed amount of money, JoongAng Daily reported.(Korean article)
Park Square operates Park Here app which offers parking lot information and reservation among Korean big cities. It helps the parking lot to raise the occupancy rates by connecting drivers and parking lot with vacancies.
Kakao’s another move for getting into a part of ‘transportation’ area. Now it covers navigation, taxi, substitute driving and parking business, almost every aspect of vehicle transportation.
A possible scenario goes like this where Kakao Navi guide you to your destiny and near the destination you can see the information of parking lots nearby provided by Park Here. If you drink at the dinner, you can call private driver with Kakao Driver.
Kakao did not reveal its plans for a newly acquired company or how much it spent for acquisition.