PND Makers need an edge

Faced with razor-thin margins on devices that sell for as little as $200, portable navigation manufacturers are looking to differentiate themselves at the more profitable high end.

According to ABI Research, that will mean “increased capabilities, better connectivity, more varied data, and more powerful functions”.

A lot of the focus will be on ‘non-traditional’ GPS-enabled devices such as smartphones. ABI Research forecasts the market for non-traditional navigation to grow to nearly 4m units annually by 2011.

These new devices’ network-connected features, the need for more advanced graphics processing, and the addition of access to contextual information – for example traffic conditions, travel advice or entertainment information – mean new form factors that take increased processing requirements and more detailed 3D display into account. ABI Research foresees the lion’s share of this growth coming as a product of carrier launches of GPS-enabled smartphones or connected devices offered at the high end of the conventional portable navigation range.

The real question is the levels of data that are being delivered, says ABI Research principal analyst Dan Benjamin. “There’s a large amount of data that can be used to increase the usability, functionality, and experience of the device, but that data is very hard to come by.

“It’s a slow process: we need persistent data in the form of renderings of buildings, and descriptions of what’s in the streets, and we also need real-time data such as traffic information, prices, shopping, and entertainment.”

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