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Twilight time for PNDs?

John Day

John Day

Posted Nov 11, 2009

“Who needs a portable navigation device?” I sneered, back in the day when PNDs cost several hundred dollars and I didn’t travel very far very often, but after getting lost one time too many, buying one seemed like a good idea. It still does, but now the newness has worn off, replaced by thoughts of “what’s next?”

My cell phone has a navigation application that works better than I thought it would, offering decent graphics and some context-sensitive search, but the cost of connect time concerned me, I didn’t want to drain the battery, and the screen was too small, so I still prefer the PND – and I’ll keep it until the need to upgrade becomes overwhelming.

When that happens, I suspect I will opt for a smartphone, and if I wait long enough I may have no other choice (except for a new car with an embedded nav system). Google recently released Google Maps Navigation, a turn-by-turn application for Android 2.0 handsets. “There have been free off-board navigation applications before, but not at this scale,” observes Phil Magney, vice president, automotive research, at iSuppli Corp.

Aswin Kumar, senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, suggests that the application “has made many traditional navigation device manufacturers and map makers sit up and rethink their strategies.”

Firms like TeleNav and Networks in Motion that currently provide nav apps for smartphones are most likely to be affected by Google’s announcement, in Magney’s view. Despite a potential edge in search quality, he predicts that they will have to lower their prices significantly and improve their navigation features. He adds that PND vendors will have to lower the cost of the real-time services they offer.

Frost’s Kumar notes that with a 3.7-inch display, fast processor, car-dock, and voice-enabled navigation entry, Motorola’s Droid “can very well fit into the role of a PND in the vehicle.” All that impact, and the Google application is still in beta.

What’s your take? For more from Phil Magney, visit

TeleNav, Smartphones, Frost & Sullivan, Google Maps Navigation, Android 2.0, Networks in Motion, Portable Navigation Device (PND), iSuppli Corporation, Motorola Droid

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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