I did a double take yesterday when I saw this ad from Staples; offering the "Garmin Nuvi 255W" for $199; combined with the TomTom 330 XL image. Whoops. (They fixed the image in their online version already.)
I assume it was a bad layout and mis-print and that I didn't miss the merger announcement of Garmin and TomTom, or that Garmin had brought in the TomTom interface for their Nuvi line....
Owners of the powerful PN-40 can now head over to Geocaching.com and download the details of the geocache directly to the unit, instead of programing it in manually. This is a big boost for frequent users of the hide and seek game played with a GPS. The ability to add the cache details directly to the GPS saves time and a lot of aggravation especially when you are running through several caches.
Google Latitude is a new product from Google that allows you to let friends and family see your location, so that your big brother really could be watching you; whoever has access to the software and who you give permission to watch where you are.
The latitude software downloads onto your compatible phone (currently BlackBerry, Sybian based systems and of course the Andriod based Google Phones - not the iPhone yet) and allows you to share your location with others who have the Google Latitude software. Once loaded and sharing, the software offers to see your location on Google Maps, and chat or SMS with that friend starting directly from the Google Maps application.
Twittered lately? We've been on Twitter for a while and have enjoyed reading and writing in a different micro-blogging way. We have our feeds hooked up so you get the Tweet as soon as a post goes up. I have also been sending Tweets out on some quick bits that I find interesting; also passing along some of the other Tweets I find interesting.
One that I just found, courtesy of one of our readers, Jim, is a twitter feed of Rhode Island traffic issues, via RI DOT. RI is small enough to cover the whole state in one feed, giving you alerts on accidents - great if you have a mobile Twitter reader. Update: I have also found the State of Washington, and Oregon.
Snowmobiling is just one great way to enjoy winter - We are buried in snow here in MA, but on trip this past weekend to Middlebury VT, I was jealous of all the snowmobilers pulling up to the pumps to fill up and take off on another day of sledding on the trails. With any outdoor sport like this, I see the opportunity for GPS, and so do a lot of others.
This past December saw the launch of SledGPS.com, a commercial site with maps of 27 states, available as one collection for $125, or in one of 5 large regions, (i.e. NorthEast), which at $49, may suffice for most users. SledGPS.com says" Our Partner, US TrailMaps, has mapped over 100,000 miles of snowmobile trails, together with nearly 250,000 businesses related to the trails like parking areas for your trailers, gas stations and lodging along your routes."
An example of map coverage is here; with trails represented as the red lines superimposed on a Google Map. Head over to their site for more detail and for a view of your area.
The maps come with snowmobiling specific POI, which makes gassing up, eating, etc. lot easier on the trail. The maps are Garmin compatible, and I would recommend a larger screen handheld, like the Colorado, or the Oregon. If you are into this, you could also utilize the ruggedized Zumo too. I have traveled a lot with an eTrex, so getting into this for around $200 is feasible too; I would recommend a color version for better resolution and readability.
There are a lot of online sharing resources too, where you can get GPX files form other users, or in collections from many users, including sites like GPSSledMaps.com, or forums like GPSXChange.com, or SnowmobileForums.com. There are also sites that specialize in state specific maps - like for Michigan.
TeleNav has refined their aim with the TeleNav Shotgun GPS as they continue to focus features on teh business traveler. The latest feature that they have rolled out is automatic mileage capture for expense tracking. It doesn't matter if you are in map mode, or routing to a destination, you can capture the mileage, add notations and import the data to Excel or simply output the data as a PDF.
The other upgrade is the inclusion of business ratings data, which can give you reviews on restaurants, etc. helping to make those decisions of where to eat while on the road, a little bit easier.
Just a quick one to put some numbers on a page for you. GPS Sales over the holiday period were down 24% in terms of dollar sales, but up 5% on unit sales, according to NPD. Looks like all of those great deals moved the boxes, but failed to move enough to generate the extra cash. For comparison, digital cameras fell 21% in dollar sales, while falling 9% in unit sales as average selling price dropped in that category too. (All sales based on brick and mortar sales figures). Unclear what happened online by category from this report, but overall onlines CE sales went up - my hunch is bargain hunters found great deals there and a similar pattern of stronger unit sales, but much lower growth in dollar sales occurred.
Dual announced a new GPS Navigation unit that is a first of its kind - the first GPS in the US to offer Traffic by HD radio signal. This was demoed at CES two years ago and is now making its debut on US soil - excellent. "So what?" you ask? Yea, the higher bandwidth of HD can deliver a lot more information through to the unit, so you should get faster updates, and hopefully more detailed information. The old TMC channel can only handle so much, so updates are as frequent and the detail and resolution on the roads just isn't there.
THe Dual XNAV43HD is planned to be around $279 and available this spring. It ships with a 4.3-inch screen, text to speech and let's hope it delivers what is possible out there. The data of course will come from Inrix, and covers hundreds of thousands of miles of roads out there.
Goodyear, yes, Goodyear is showing off a model of GPS that is targeted at the transportation industry, namely trucks, with features and most importantly maps that detail for trucks. The unit software, "ProNav" featuring NAVTEQ Transport, was designed specifically with the trucking industry in mind. It provides dynamic routing and navigation capabilities, using driver-set parameters such as:
Other warning data (e.g. cross winds, steep incline, etc.)
The unit's software if built by NCC a UK based software company, and from the press release, it sounds like they did their homework, allowing one unit to be used in multiple trucks, with the ability to use external antennas for a wide array of mounting options and settings that allow easy changes to the truck's dimensions which help determine its routing.
I have had a lot of people ask about GPS units for CDL truck drivers, and this seems to fit the need.
On the eve of CES 2009, I can't help but ponder what's next for the GPS industry given the dire situation in the economy and the confluence of technologies and products that are running smack into the tightly closed wallets in American's pockets.
Where are we at?
Dominant Players Keep Challengers at Bay - Over the last year, TomTom and Garmin drained the pond and ran for the low end launching and maintaining their presence with value models, all but removing the need for second and third tier brands whose sole offering was price beater. When you could save $80 on a unit by switching brands to "Fly by Night GPS Model A", it's meaningful, but when it's $20, why not go with the trusted name. It will be interesting to see if TeleNav can launch into a targeted market with a higher end innovation of the connected GPS in all of this. It goes against the grain of cheapie units entering from the bottom of the market; they are also experienced in software design from their mobile phone based navigation capabilities. Their interface needs to be good, and the market willing, in order to make any money.
People are thinking about skipping that GPS purchase - in a Wall St Journal article yesterday (p.B3) they reported that 62% of participants in a survey were less likely to buy a GPS given the state of the economy. The survey was conducted in November, potentially spelling out the poor holiday season that we just went through.
Black Friday Every Day - TomTom planned to bring the price of their ONE 125 unit back up to $129 after Black Friday, but it's now $99 almost everyday online. Either they are doing really well and not moving much else, or there's a lot of inventory to move. TWICE indicates that in their conversations, inventories at key retailers are high. Black Friday quality deals are all over the place as retailers are trimming inventories and the buyers are the victors. Go with quality, and you'll make out.
Where is this all going?
Consolidation - we have already seen Magellan get bought up by Mitac, Mio's parent company, and I would expect that only the strong will survive this recession and technology shake-out. While the in-category consolidation takes place, don't rule out a broader consolidation; think mobile phones, maps, location based services, and GPS units all being run out of the same shop.
Streamline the Line - As we eek towards decent connected offerings, we will see the GPS category morph into a few general offerings. If you don't have these you're not a complete player.
Low End Value - grab the Point of Market Entry consumers, keep the cheapie rivals out of the cookie jar.
Mid-Point with move-up features - nicer benefits, higher quality user experience, and more profits available per model.
High End Connected Wannabe - Should be fully connected, but isn't and should have a limited appeal. Offers services that are better when there's more bandwidth; think traffic here.
Over the Top Connected Lifestyle - Gooped up with loads of features, and really where the fun is at. Takes effort and skill to make this work.... oh yea, and willing buyers that we haven't seen enough of yet.
Connected GPS Services - yes, they will come, the consumer need is there and the benefits can be great. Dash flew a little too close to the sun and it didn't work out in the first iteration for them, but they had a grand vision of networked traffic, customized search capabilities, and local content. The issue here is in solving the monthly fee concern, and the visualization of the benefits, and the interface that can support the benefits clearly, etc. Can consumers swallow another monthly fee for their device, especially in a recession? The answer might be in taking an "add-on" like a personal navigation device, and turn it into a "must-have", like a mobile phone - something like the Nuvifone. An issue to solve here is that phones need to be relatively small, but we want large GPS screens....
GPS/LBS Everywhere - There's a benefit to having location awareness, and it's coming to a device near you. We are already jogging with you, biking with you, in cameras, in Radar Detectors, phones, in computers, in cars, in nativity scenes, and just about anything you can hook a data logger to. When things are location aware, ads can be sold for location sensitive businesses; think the coffee shop, or the local restaurant, and this money can help drive the whole business cycle, and potentially subsidize you costs.
For now, we'll see what turns up at CES, and monitor the deals and bargains for you. Stay tuned, it's always an interesting ride.