Sunday, December 13, 2009

Game changer - Google's turn by turn

Well, I think we've just witnessed a shift in the GPS industry with Google's launch of their free turn by turn service on the Android platform.

Google is now offering not only free map functionality found on competitor devices, but a free turn by turn navigation application that we have all grown to love (And we are used to paying for). The equivalent applications on the iPhone cost around $99 from the App Store, but they are absolutely free on the Android platform. Not only is it free, but it now links in to Google's traffic data, helping route you around congested routes (In supported cities).

Google is able to do this because they have spent the time developing their own data to pull from, rather than relying on the two providers of turn by turn data. All other GPS manufacturers and iPhone app developers have to license this data from one of two companies. This means that if Apple wants to have a similar application free on their device, they are going to have to take a loss on the application because they will have to pay for the data the application will use.

Not only do users get the application for free, but Google (From what I've heard, but I can't confirm this) will be paying the carriers a portion of the Add revenue generated from the use of Google's application, Search and related advertising. This is a less than free model that Apple and RIM can't compete with. As a carrier, why would you chose differently? You can charge a customer for the handset AND get a portion of the add pie from Google.

If I was Apple, RIM or a GPS manufacturer, I would be scared for the future, especially with the costs of producing these handsets coming down. Why would I have a GPS and a phone, when I can have an Android handset with both?

Personally, this is causing me to wait to buy a smartphone. I'll be happy to replace my Blackberry with a Android device when the timings right. Sorry Apple.


  1. Google does not develop their own spatial data: the only data they have collected themselves are the "StreetView" images. Microsoft's Streetside content is collected in a similar fashion. All 2D spatial content still comes from either TeleAtlas or Navteq - this is supported by the copyright notices on the bottom.

    Both spatial content providers have a myriad of different pricing models designed to suite both large teleco organizations and the boutique application developer.

    As far as Google's proposed destruction of TomTom and Navigon - that remains to be seen. Google's core product remains it's Search Engine - with the rest of these extensions being playthings with very little time spent on quality assurance. Case and point Google Wave was a disaster and a privacy nightmare.

    If Google, like other large telco organizations, want to be serious in the wireless space then it needs to take the time to do it right - not just institute a quick entry into the marketplace with a sub-par, hyped up solution followed by poor post-production support. Learn from Nexus One dear Google.

    And finally the Android OS is certainly a decent attempt at a Wireless OS but there is plenty of room for improvement and devices like RIM's Blackberry will continue to evolve their own solutions - time will tell.

    Net-net this is a fantastic time to be a wireless consumer and with the competition increasing in Canada this is a great time to be a Canuck as well!

  2. Actually, check out

    "This comes shortly after Google announced that it was going to be using its own mapping data in the US. This data has been derived from its own streetview trucks, satellite imagery and, increasingly, its users. Google now owns or has created almost every layer of its geostack in the US (it uses third-party satellite imagery)."

    As it mentioned, the reason you still see the copyright isn't because the turn by turn data isn't Googles, it's because the satellite imagery is 3rd party.

    Also, do you mean Google Wave or Google Buzz? Google Wave wasn't the hit that they were expecting, but it sure didn't have the privacy issues that Google Buzz did.

  3. Interesting - time will tell whether Google has the expertise to keep their new found spatial content current - a non-trivial task in which plenty of third-party professional service companies charge large sums of money to keep mere store information current.

    As for the the privacy issue - you are correct - I meant to say Buzz - thanks for the clarification.

    Relating this comment back to the original article - Google's solution is definitely disruptive - whether or not it is a game changer remains to be seen. Nokia has been offering a similar solution, first seen on the N95 device 2 years ago, for free. Dominating 65% of the wireless market, I believe they will have a far stronger voice in the wireless space than Google - but I never dismiss Google's entrance into any market especially since their OS has been picked up and successfully executed by the Droid and now HTC and Sony Ericsson follow suit.

    Like I said before, this is a fantastic time to be a wireless consumer and with the competition increasing in Canada this is a great time to be a Canuck as well!


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