Google Maps Navigation Will Change Mapping in 2010

In anticipation of the Verizon’s launch of the Motorola Droid Google released Google Maps Navigation. This is the standard Google Maps we’ve all come to learn and love extended to a fully functional portable navigation device…really a natural evolution of Google Maps and Google’s release of the Android operating system.

I’ve been wondering for many years why OEM and aftermarket navigation systems weren’t ‘provided by Google.’  It would seem that Google was just waiting for the right time. What, you may ask, is so great about Q4 2009 for launching their newest major industry disruptor (and there is no doubt it will disrupt the status quo of the navigation industry)? Well, a number of things have fallen into place to make the launch much smarter now then it would’ve been a year, or more, ago.

  1. Wireless infrastructure – Google Maps relies on the cellular connection of the device to download maps, conduct searches and return POI infomration.  2009 has been a strong year for 3g with Verizon seeming to establish itself as having the strongest network (especially with the ad campaigns in the second half of the year). For anyone that has used Google Maps on a slow or unreliable mobile connection (pre-iPhone 3G users for example) it was not an ideal experience.  Often lagging behind the user it was not ready to take over the world and the addition of navigation features undoutedly requires additional bandwidth that would’ve made the features impossible.
  2. Android Operating System – Android is Google’s open source operating system for mobile devices (they have since also launched the Chrome OS for desktops).  The OS is efficient and powerful and has already made its way into numbers devices the highest profile of which, thus far, has been the Motorola Droid (Verizon only).  For now, the navigation features of Google Maps are only available in the Android operating system (v1.6 or higher).  This gives Google the considerable power of operating in their own universe to create the application without consideration for how other companies might be developing their operating systems.
  3. Hardware – The first Android device hit the market about a year ago and since then at least half a dozen have been released or are soon to be released.   As I mentioned the Droid is the big brother of that class right now, but the soon to come launch of the Nexus One is garnering a bit more buzz.  The Nexus One is the first ‘Google Phone’ and you can expect the big G to throw some surprises into the mix.

So, even though Maps has been around for what feels like a long time Google waited til now to launch navigation and it’s because the infrastructure is just getting to where it can support the app and the combination of the hardware and software rollout gives them the control they need to implement the applications while managing the user exprience effectively.

Why then, is this not a bigger deal? Why hasn’t the PND market come crashing to the ground and Tele-Atlas blown itself up?  Well, first off, the announcement from Google dragged down TomTom and Garmin’s stock prices big time (so it is a big deal), but more importantly it hasn’t hit criticall mass yet.  That is, there aren’t enough Android devices out there yet to really send the PND companies packing, yet.  The Android rollout is picking up steam (far more so than the WebOS…to my personal chagrin) and in 2010 sales will continue to increase.  Millions of Android handsets have been sold already and some analysts predict catching up to the iPhone in 2011.  That’s a staggering thought considering the impact the iPhone has had on the industry (especially considering the iPhone is about a closed a system as one could possibly imagine, down to the fact that you can only get it on AT&Ts network) but it also makes some sense because Android is an operating system t

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