GeoCarta Has Moved

Feb 24, 2007

So Long to Stand-Alone GPS Units?

Could the days of dash-mounted or handheld GPS units be numbered? Chicago Tribune Technology writer Eric Benderoff thinks so. In an article carried in the the Wichita Eagle, Mr. Benderoff argues that such devices will be replaced by GPS-enabled cellphones:

Last week, as I read about a parade of mobile phone-based navigation debuts at a European trade show, that thought turned into pessimism for Garmin, Tom Tom, Chicago's Cobra Electronics and other makers of stand-alone global positioning systems.
But the future is in the palm of your hand, not on the dashboard of your car.
In the short term, you will see healthy market gains, such as Garmin's fourth-quarter performance, released last week, showing earnings more than doubled. Sales of stand-alone units from all makers are expected to double this year.

But long term, the momentum will swing to the mobile phone-makers, thanks, in part, to an unlikely marketing partner: the federal government.

Due to the recently enacted e-911 rules that say mobile-phone users must be able to be located by police or fire departments in case of an emergency, there are millions of phones in the United States that contain GPS chips.

Even though few of those phones take advantage of their devices' GPS DNA so far, that's rapidly changing.

As people shop for new phones when service contracts expire, they will see phones with bigger and brighter screens, ideal for GPS. Plus, the carriers are good at enticements too.

Mr. Benderoff points out that not everyone agrees the the prediction of death for the handheld GPS unit. Robert Gourdine, director of marketing and business development at Navteq Inc. points out that right now dash-mounted navigation devices hold "just a fraction of the total potential for the market." However, since Navteq provides digital maps for both cellphone makers and handhelds, that's what you'd expect him to say.