28 October, 2009

GPS Investors flee from Google's Shadow

Google Navigator, a seemingly natural extension of existing Google Maps technology that's found on smart-phone platforms like the iPhone and Android, has GPS company investors running from the hills.

The issue isn't that the technology from Google (GOOG) is significantly better, it does look very good and would be a formidable competitor, the issue is Google's affinity to price all-things-Internet at $0. Considering Navigation subscriptions run in the $100s of dollars/year, not to mention the cost of the units themselves, how many GPS users would turn to something else from, for now, trusted Google at zero cost that works on their existing cellular phone? I'd bet many, and the market is betting that way too. Gizmodo (Link), the technology blog, has an informed quick review of Google's entry into the Navigation business.

The sell-off in the market has certainly contributed to some of the downfall in GPS stocks, however major players Garmin (GRMN) and TomTom (TOM2) are down 16% and 20%, respectively.

The age of convergence in technology is certainly upon us, better cameras are coming to cellular phones, better media players are already there, and now GPS navigation capabilities are becoming mainstream. The stand-alone technology gadget/device is becoming a niche rather quickly.

Android, the free open-source cellular operating system developed by Google, is taking off by leaps and bounds this year, with several high profile phones on tap on high profile networks, such as Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T) and T-Mobile in the US. The platform, which recent research has predicted, could overtake the popular Apple (AAPL) iPhone in market-share over the next few years, needs applications like Google Navigator to be exclusive on enticing handsets in the months to come. The Momentum is building for Android and Google is keeping the fire lit with its Navigation application.

The only problem for investors, Google doesn't want to charge for anything but advertising! In all likelihood however, this is the next step in Navigator's life cycle, and Google can continue its march into dominance of the mobile ad industry, just as it has trounced the competition in search.

Disclosure: Author owns GOOG

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