We wondered if makers of GPS navigation apps and systems should worry about Google's rumored efforts toward free turn-by-turn nav just the other day. And guess what--it's all true, and Tom Tom, Navigon, and the rest should be afraid.
in the unsurprising standard Google's following, the system is called Google Maps Navigation, and it's beta software--also a Google norm--rolled out as part of the Android 2.0 launch. It's got a number of advantages over the paid dedicated GPS apps for smartphones, thanks to the tie-up to Google's search service. For example, there's plain English searching which simplifies the usual dialing through points of interest menus, and you can search for services along the calculated route between start and end points. The satellite imagery from Google Maps can also be overlaid on the view, which can probably help in finding where you are when you're in a new location.
Plus Google Navigation is free--Google's simply going to recoup revenue the way it always does, via is extensive advertising hook-ups. This could be terrifying news for TomTom, Navigon, and the other GPS system makers, currently busily switching their business model from stand-alone hardware to supporting the A-GPS and digital compasses built into the current crop of smartphones. Why would you pay tens of dollars for one of these systems when Google's costs you nothing? Well--for now, it's an Android-specific feature, so you won't see it on the iPhone with any speed. And if you're into user-friendliness and good design, Google's standards suck: It's perfectly possible that you'd opt for a better-looking and easier to use paid system over Google's option.
What is clear is that the whole GPS navigation market just changed. With rumors that Apple itself is interested in making its own nav solution, and augmented reality systems rapidly changing how we think about location, navigation and location-based-services, it's just going to keep on changing too.