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Will Google and Android Kill Standalone GPS? 439

Posted by kdawson
from the wall-street-is-not-main-street dept.
xchg passes along a WiseAndroid piece on the drop in value of Garmin and TomTom shares following Google's announcement yesterday of Google Maps Navigation. "Shares of GPS device makers Garmin and TomTom plummeted... through a combination of their quarterly results and the launch of Google Maps Navigation. Following both low guidance for Garmin's next quarter as well as poor results from TomTom, shares for the two fell 16.4 percent and 20.8 percent respectively and remained low through the entire trading day after news of Google's free, turn-by-turn mapping service became public." Today Lauren Weinstein posted a number of reasons why standalone GPS won't go away any time soon.
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Will Google and Android Kill Standalone GPS?

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  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:31AM (#29924421)

    The military uses GPS for targeting. It's not going away until a higher-resolution replacement is found.

    The GPS consumer market is a great way for the manufacturers to ditch the receivers that don't pass military QC.

    Also, like you say, the most important places to have GPS are places where there isn't cell coverage. They still sell satellite phones for a reason. Not everyone used GPS to get to the store.

  • Not yet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thyamine (531612) <thyamine@ofdrago ... minus herbivore> on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:31AM (#29924425) Homepage Journal
    I didn't read the article, of course, but right away my first thought is trying to use the GPS and be on the phone at the same time would be a problem in an all-in-one style device. Of course you shouldn't be on the phone (technically, perhaps), but we do it anyways. At least I do. I won't speak for the rest of you since I know at least one person will say that of course they never do and I'm evil for doing it. But I know I've used my GPS and phone at the same time in general, let alone finding some difficult place that isn't fully locatable in GPS. Back roads, unlisted roads, mismatched turns, etc.
  • by Loomismeister (1589505) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:31AM (#29924427)
    Will stand alone GPS be killed? Of course not! The military and civil navigation systems use it in stand alone settings and they will continue to do so. GPS can't disappear and the only valid question here is "Would Garmin or TomTom go out of business because of google or android?". The answer is still no because they won't die, and if they do it's not because of google or android alone.
  • Re:No (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dintlu (1171159) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:32AM (#29924439)

    Before someone got the bright idea to add road maps and turn-by-turn directions to GPS units, they were used recreationally by hikers and other outdoorsy types, and commercially everywhere.

    The few curmudgeons who refuse to use functional smartphones are a negligible market. Unintegrated commuter GPS units are going to fall by the wayside in a couple years, but the *original* applications for GPS in handheld devices aren't going anywhere.

    Granted, hikers, industry, and the military are much smaller markets than Joe Sixpack, but they're still large enough to sustain the continued manufacture and production of GPS technology.

  • Re:No (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:37AM (#29924541)

    Granted...the military are much smaller markets

    That's kinda sad considering that the military market is all that's left of America's economy.

  • Re:UH? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by samkass (174571) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:41AM (#29924595) Homepage Journal

    Garmin's market cap is ~6B and TomTom's is less than 2B. Apple could buy either with cash on hand. Considering that GPS is a major feature and a major Apple competitor now controls that feature, I think Apple should seriously consider doing so.

  • I have, if I can remember correctly, seven separate GPS units including two in each car (Magellan), two handheld units that are waterproof for sea kayaking (both Garmin but one has all the US marine charts and both do tracking), one stand-alone Garmin for our 1974 Carver 25-foot cabin cruiser that can take inputs from depth sounder and radar plus contains maps and charts for the entire west coast of North America (Garmin), one aviation-oriented Garmin that contains aviation charts and interfaces with my glider's computer, and one Magellan hand-held that my business used when we did a wireless ISP.

    Even though my iPhone has a very inexpensive GPS application for marine charts (with downloadable maps), and even though I often take it (in a water-tight enclosure) with me sea kayaking, it's not likely to replace the hand held waterproof Garmins because they have specialized features (trip counters, currents, etc) that are easier to access and screens made for use in bright sunlight.

    Similarly, the GPS units made specifically for aviation and marine use are not likely to be replaced by a combination cell phone/GPS. You need more than turn-by-turn instructions when flying from thermal to thermal in a glider, for instance.

    And although many late model cars come with built-in GPS systems these are expensive to upgrade and do not allow any changes while the car is moving (even by the passenger). Their screens can be fabulous but the annoyance of having to pull over and stop if something changes has made several of my friends go buy a Nuvi just so they can get the functionality they want. So all their built-in units do is track and display speed, direction, etc. The turn-by-turn is left up to the stand-alone unit mounted on the windshield.

    The biggest hurdle to mass use of cell phone GPS devices is likely to be the simple fact that 3G coverage is going to be spotty for a long time to come. Rural Oregon, Idaho, Nevada or Montana is not likely to have either wifi or 3G except along the main Interstate highways or in larger cities. And the same will hold true for many other states. Combine this with the handicap of the cell phone screen which is often too small to be seen when mounted 2 or 3 feet away on the dashboard or windshield and you will have people buying stand-alone GPS systems for a long time to come.

    But the market for the stand-alone units is likely to shrink. Pedestrians or byclists who stay in town would take their cell phone anyway and having it track their rides or walks would make them unlikely to buy one of the Garmin wrist-mounted units. And if I traveled to a large city on business I'd take my iPhone but probably not a GPS unit; the iPhone could do whatever I needed it to do with the likelihood of 3G coverage.

  • by FridgeFreezer (1352537) on Friday October 30, 2009 @12:44PM (#29925553)
    But we go to places where there is no signal. Not just no cell signal, but no TV or FM radio, nothing. In the woods, in RF-unfriendly geographies, even SiRF-III GPS can struggle to get a lock. Also - what about planes & boats? No GSM base stations at sea, well, not without a dedicated satellite uplink. What about military apps where a mobile phone could easily be detected & targetted by the enemy?
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Friday October 30, 2009 @12:49PM (#29925635)

    "In the same way that Walmart comes into a town and destroys local businesses, Google can enter into an industry/sector and destroy most of the competition overnight by giving an application away for free. Who is going to pay $100 for a Maps Application now (or more for a hardware device) when they can just download one for free.

    Isn't this the same type of stuff we accused Microsoft of doing years ago? Yup, Walmart, I mean Google strikes again. Pray whatever industry you're in Google doesn't decide to suddenly release a free product."

    Yeah, and then they jack up prices once the competition is gone!

    Wait - they don't do that? They keep their prices low? Well, wtf?

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike Walmart, but the "destroy competition" is the weakest one. The reason that is generally viewed as bad is that it has historically led to price increases, but that hasn't yet happened with Walmart. Same as Google.

    The difference between them and MS is that, once MS had wiped out Netscape, it could divert resources away from browser development, and left us with IE6 for years. The consumer did not benefit. One might argue that the Wal-Mart/Google model is bad on a macroeconomic scale, but certainly not at the consumer level.

  • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:17PM (#29925955) Homepage

    Here's a question: are standalone GPS significantly better than a cell phone GPS?

    Most standalone and cell phone GPS receivers are the same. Everyone is using a cheap commodity GPS receiver like the SiRFstar III. Dedicated GPS units often have a better antenna, but the data coming from the receiver is generally the same no matter what the device. Beyond that, it's all what you do with the data in software.

  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cajun Hell (725246) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:53PM (#29926427) Homepage Journal

    Millions of people still are satisfied with the "free with plan" basic Motorolla/Nokia with calls, text, and a few crappy games built in.

    Of course they're satisfied with it. But how long will they continue to be able to get it?

    Trying buying parts for a computer some time -- look at the prices -- and see what it would take to build something with 256MB of RAM, since that is "enough." You're going to find that 2GB of RAM is cheaper, because those strips are what is being mass-produced. Some day, you're going to want the cheapest, freest phone from your provider, and they are going to give you a supercomputer with integrated GPS, camera, music player, keychain, debit card magstrip emulator, universal IR remote, cigarette lighter, combo vibrating coffee-stirrer/dildo, and toaster, because it'll be cheaper for them to stock those as the low-end alternative, for the people who don't want to pay much extra for new trendy integrated stun gun or radio telescope (and even those will be free features, two generations later).

    There are lots of .. little things .. that benefit from computer control, and maybe more importantly, a battery. It's efficient for them to all share one computer/battery. But once you start doing that, scale happens.

  • by whoop (194) on Friday October 30, 2009 @04:03PM (#29928147) Homepage

    Being able to show a Street View picture of where you are going to turn will be killer for a major portion of the public, women. I lost count of how many times I've tried to give the wife directions and receive that blank stare back. Even getting her a GPS hasn't built any confidence in her ability to move around a small area. She knows her set of stores she goes to and that is it. Show her to turn at the McDonald's and such and she could be better able to navigate.

    Lord, I hope so.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Friday October 30, 2009 @06:29PM (#29929649) Homepage Journal

    >>I'm not going to pay a monthly fee to use something.

    It's free.

    >>AT&T is choking hard with a ton of people browsing the web

    It's Verizon.

    (Which makes statement #1 so amazing to actually be true. They are firmly within the anal-violation school of retail pricing.)

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