I personally enjoyed very much the iPhone 3GS presentation when TomTom Inc. presented their software/hardware add-ons that will allow you to use the iPhone as fully functional Navigation System. The question is how long companies like Garmin can sit monopolizing the market and provide little more than radical incrementalism in it’s new product offerings. About a year ago there were four competitors in the personal navigation market: Garmin, TomTom and Navigon with Magellan kind of in the background. Navigon has ended it’s production of devices but will sell it’s software to anyone willing to license it. Magellan is still creeping around, but has been superceeded by Garmin long ago. So TomTom and Garmin beat each others heads in on a quarterly basis. TomTom really did innovate in the software end of things providing all kinds of aids like telling you which road lane to take on the highway, or help at difficult intersections. As they rolled these out, Garmin would just sit back and eventually respond with a similar feature. Slowly by attrition trying to bleed away the advantage of TomTom. Worse yet, Garmin entered into a project to design a brand new cell phone with all the software and gps components integrated into it. THAT folks is the Garmin strategy. They will own the production of the device and the software or nothing at all. TomTom has taken a rather different approach and is kind of taking a cue from Navigon. They took the Apple iPhone Application development environment and ported the software into it. Now the GPS chip of the iPhone can be fully accessed and used to turn the iPhone into a TomTom Go!
Oh how I wish Garmin had seen this coming. Worse yet, they will not adapt their strategy. It’s full steam ahead on the cell phone and they are sticking to it. Ericsson is helping them design it, and it won’t be out for another year. Which shows the perilous position they are in. With the blistering pace of product introductions in the Navigation market, wouldn’t Garmin have learned that a 2 year design cycle on a cell phone is going to KILL the product once it’s released? And worse yet, as the tastes change, who is going to give up their iPhone just to have the privilege of owning the Garmin branded cell phone. I swear that product is dead on arrival and Garmin needs to pay off it’s contract with Ericsson and bury all the prototypes built so far. End it, end it now.
“It’s more like a desperate move. Now that you have the iPhone and the Pre, it’s just too late,” Mr. Blin said. Smartphones equipped with GPS “are the model moving forward that is going to be successful.”
Software versus hardware is a tough choice sometimes. But nobody ever can predict how long something like a personal navigation device is going to ‘relevant’. Worse yet, some companies making devices can make some bad strategic choices, which leads me to the Garmin Cell Phone. It’s the software stupid!