The press buzzed yesterday with countless articles on Google’s move into the GPS turn-by-turn navigation market for mobile phones, with its announcement that it will offer a free service for the new Motorola Droid called Google Maps for Mobile. Google will offer this service to more phones soon.
This announcement is profound for a number of reasons:
1) it picks up where standalone GPS devices and the subscription services offered by cellphone carriers are lagging, actually punches them in the gut by offering consumers a free service with which they cannot compete;
2) the announcement also signals a broader shift toward consolidation in the gadget world, according to The New York Times;
3) mapping data becomes an ever increasingly important piece in the entire navigation/location arena.
Prior to this announcement, Google had begun to create its own digital maps of the U.S., ending a contract with map data provider TeleAtlas, owned by TomTom, a provider of mobile phones. It was unforeseen by most in this industry that this would happen; we were accustomed to the sparring of TeleAtlas and NAVTEQ over the mapping data market, but did not think that space left any room for competitors. It is, after all, time consuming and expensive to gather this type of extensive data.
As a result of the announcement, yesterday shares of TomTom and Garmin plummeted – Garmin’s shares dropped 16 percent to $31.45 on Nasdaq, TomTom’s shares closed around 21 percent lower on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
The excitement about this is interesting in light of studies done by ABI Research, which I reported on in May of this year in GISWeekly, which found that consumers more readily printed out directions from Mapquest rather than relying on navigation devices or services on their mobile phones.
ABI Research practice director for telematics and navigation, Dominique Bonte, said many people may think everybody has navigation on his/her mobile phone or has a personal navigation device built in to the car, so why would they go to these online mapping sites on their computers to look for directions, then print the directions and keep the direction in the car?
“Although that’s still a use case, what I found is that most of the sites are very quickly evolving towards companion sites for your mobile navigation system, where after you’ve planned your trip days ahead, you can look at the trip, the traffic, and finally download to your mobile navigation device, which is much easier than having to look for destinations on your device,” explained Bonte. Typically mobile devices don’t have the same facility as computers to enter destinations and other important data. More importantly, Bonte added that these sites are very quickly evolving from offering solely traditional directions to expanding their scope to include such offerings as real time traffic information.
That’s all changed, as just yesterday, Bonte was quoted as saying: “With a free alternative that is just as good, I don’t see much positive growth for the likes of TomTom, Navigon or Garmin. If it’s free and a good service, why would you pay for something you can get for free?”
Most likely printing out directions from Mapquest or Google Maps will still be highly desirable for planned trips, but for those spur-of-the-moment on the road decisions, or when you forget to make yourself a map beforehand, Google Maps for Mobile will be greatly appreciated.
I, for one, am excited about its future availability for my cell phone.