Apple wants to be the ultimate travel assistant with iTravel
If it wasn’t enough that Google is rumoured to buying travel technology company ITA Software, then this next move by Apple may just finish a few people off completely.
Above is a screenshot from PatentlyApple.com, which has gone through a patent filed by Apple this month for iTravel, a suite of functionality for the iPhone that includes, well, almost everything for traveller.
iTravel was a patent filed originally in Q3 of 2008 but has since been heavily updated with a terrifying range of options that would sit within the existing handset suite of user options.
At its simplest the service is a series of user options including the ability to make reservations, reservation management, airport and hotel check-in and identification tools.
But read that line again, and you really get an idea of what Apple is trying to do.
The en-route elements are something any tech-head would expect Apple to pioneer – indeed, mobile is a logical area for identification and ticket handling for a smartphone device, especially when RFID capability becomes a norm rather than something from Minority report.
But the tool that will allow a user to browse and select a flight, hotel, car rental, train, cruise or bus, book it and then receive the ticket or confirmation, is where a service such as iTravel gets very interesting for the user – and the rest of the travel sector.[NB: Curiously, in-resort activities such as tours and activities are not included at this stage, perhaps signifying the disparate and complex nature of how they are distributed digitally]
Because iTravel is only at the patent stage it is impossible to understand how each of the pieces of functionality will work in terms of partnerships, but least to say that there may well be a mad scramble to become the provider that runs the flight or hotel search and booking capability.
The ticketing function would also need to be handled by a technology partner – something that a GDS, for example, would be keen to support.
In fact, a GDS could in theory handle the entire thing for Apple. Such developments like this at Apple Corp begin to shed some light on why a company like Google is potentially interested in a company like ITA Software.
But the point to make here is that whatever Apple does with iTravel it potentially changes the landscape once again.
A single piece of functionality like iTravel pretty much puts the search, buy, and trip management (such as check-in, security) experience direct into the user’s hand through one entry point.
It would be attractive to many users and therefore significant amounts of travel distribution would start to go through such adevice.
To be a part of that search and booking ecosystem is attractive to those involve, but not for those that are squeezed out.
It is now possible to imagine a digital travel sector dominated (even controlled) by just a handful of powerful players – those that run the devices and/or the distribution.
The final point to make here is that, once again, it will be the outsiders that disrupt the travel sector, not those already within it.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.