A couple of days back Om Malik of GigaOm realized he may have been a little too conservative in predicting that cellphone navigation would eventually kill the PND. “Eventually” is the word in question, because with a plethora of GPS-enabled mobile handsets released in the past while, including the 3G iPhone with built-in GPS, PND’s may be hitting the deadpool sooner than expected. Dash Navigation is the only PND maker who has embraced internet connectivity in a real way and have opened up their platform to developers looking to put together 3rd party location-based applications. The two bigwigs in the standalone GPS industry, Garmin and TomTom haven’t done this in any real way yet (not portable connectivity anyway). Unless makers of standalone PND’s begin to embrace open connectivity and software development platforms, devices such as the 3G iPhone will takeover because of their innate flexibility and openness. When Malik first predicted the death of the PND a while back, I thought he was too far ahead of himself. Now I’m not so sure.
Mike Elgan of Computerworld is another early convert to cellphone GPS after purchasing a Blackberry Pearl 8110. He claims the navigational capabilities of the Pearl and far superior to any PND he’s used. He’s put together a handy comparison of the GPS-enabled Pearl 8110 and his last PND, the Garmin GPSMAP 296 to illustrate his reasoning. First off, the Pearl 8110 cost him $73 including his data plan plus a $10 monthly subscription to TeleNav’s mapping service. The GPSMAP 296? $2200 with no connectivity options and according to Elgan updating maps is a real pain. Aside from the huge price difference, Elgan says the Blackberry Pearl has some other game-winning features as well. To put it in a nutshell, the Pearl 8110 is smaller, it’s connected, it has voice command which apparently works quite well, and it has real-time traffic updates.
Now to be fair, higher-end PND’s are hitting the market with real-time traffic data now and I’m pretty sure we’ll see more connected devices with voice command in the next year or so. But if all other features are equal, the GPS-enabled cellphone will win out on price every time. Chip makers such as SiRF are struggling bad enough as it is with PND prices where they are now. How will they ever be able to compete with cellphones? Is it possible that in the next few years we’ll see the likes of SiRF, Garmin and TomTom actually acquired by handset makers?