The Ride is Getting Bumpy

everlast_glove_greenIt was bound to happen. To date, Android has enjoyed a pretty smooth ride. Updates have been frequent, reviews have been positive and the Android world was rosy. But explosive growth is always fraught with casualties and drama. On the heels of Eclair’s release that drama is hitting Android dead on.

First there was the issue of the fragmentation of the OS. Followed by the apparent obsolescence of the flagship HTC Dream/G1 phone. Now, on word that 2.0 will come with Google Maps Navigation included and the subsequent drop in share prices of Garmin, TomTom and other mapping providers, a full fledged battle appears to be forming.

Networks in Motion’s (NIM) Steve Andler, VP of marketing at the company responsible for Verizon’s VZ Navigator and the Gokivo iPhone app, threw the first punch. He accused Google being no better than Microsoft saying …[Google] integrates stuff into the core, leaving no room for anyone to innovate.” He went on to say that Android being open was “a bunch of hooey.”

I’m not sure which offended me more, comparing Google to Microsoft of the use of the word “hooey.”

I may be over simplifying things but developers have done an amazing job of taking Google’s offerings and innovating thus far. The default alarm has been improved, as has the calendar, address book, dialer, etc. I understand Mr. Andler’s point, but maybe it’s time for PND manufacturers to evolve, to innovate, to improve on the standard that it appears will be set by Google. However, the complaining is understandable when the cash cow is attacked. Here is hoping this is just a necessary growing pain that results in better navigation software for customers and continued growth for the Android OS and PDN manufacturers alike.

  • Indeed Google Maps Navigation is far from perfect, first it will be only available in US (Europe and Asia would be still a big market I think!) and as pointed out on few reviews it lack some basic features seen on most other solution, like no "Go Home" button, no display of the time of arrival,… There are still some doubts on its ability to work offline.
    It is still possible to get an innovative and better product than what Google throw away for free!

  • Droidy

    how do you know these wont be implemented before launch proper? how do you know the go home button is not in a menu somewhere, its not on the front screen of a tom tom, you still have to go through a menu. Display time of arrival should not be a problem already being in google maps on the desktop.

    and as for working offline as has been mentioned many times there will be some sort of caching system when preparing route and being google i'm sure they will think of something.

    You seem to have dismissed it without doing any reading on it as you have completely missed the point, whether it is perfect or not at launch this is going to shake the Nav business no end, they ALL have to sort out the pricing and development structure and this long term can only be good for the consumer.

    • Yes, I haven't tested it. My only reference is this rather good review:
      I could have mentioned the missing multi-stop planning like what Garmin have… just to name other features that will be missing.

      This is going to shake the Sat Nav world but I would hope in a good way… Garmin, TomTom and the others will have to work hard to get better and cheaper products to compete with Google's and the ones that will benefit from it would be us… the consumers!

  • If your business model depends on big companies intentionally leaving gaps in their products then you're in trouble.

    • David

      Well said. Turn-by-turn is the next logical step in the evolution of Google Maps…why should Google hesitate to continue developing their product? And as far as this being "free", I think the better adjective would be "included". We're paying a high monthly fee already, and Google has to continually develop better reasons for us to continue paying and protect their revenue stream.

      • Google is NOT getting money from what you are paying every month to your mobile phone carrier.
        They might get some from manufacturers to allows them to include their products that are not part of the Android OS (Google Mail, Talk, Map,…) but that might not even sure.

        Their business model is based on free for all paid by ads, to understand how it works:

        • Google certainly derives income from having the Google logo on "Google Experience" phones and the inclusion of their proprietary apps on those phones. My guess would be that someone (the hardware producer, the carrier, or some combination of the two) is compensating Google for that right. Now maybe they're not getting a direct percentage of our monthly payments, but if we were all to stop making those payments and buy Blackberries instead, the companies would stop paying for that right, and Google's revenue stream from Android would suddenly dry up.

          You can call something "free", but the close integration of the Google apps, and Google's continued innovation, is a big reason I've gone with Android and will continue to support it as an OS. If those are primary among the features that make the service worth paying for, then calling them free seems a bit specious.

          I'm not putting Google down with these comments. My original point was that Google has every right and reason to improve their product. If the stand-alone GPS manufacturers have a problem with that, then they need to re-examine their business model. The comparison between Microsoft's inclusion of IE with Windows and Google's improvement of Google Maps seems like quite a stretch to me.

    • Kevin

      I agree with ezuall. Google doesn't have to keep anybody else's best interest in mind besides the consumer.

      And yes, this will force more places like Garmin and TomTom to offer cheaper services or perish.

      I love this article because it really shows the divide between the way google thinks and operates as a company vs. the way other people do it.

      Google is truly one of the only major pro-consumer businesses out there.

  • kenif

    Things get replaced. Technology moves on. Some things that used to cost are now free. Some methods and jobs have been lost. This will ALWAYS happen. At least I hope so, the alternative, to force the status quo (sp?) is to stagnate an economy. Think Pony Express –> email.

    Things change…

  • carig

    VZ Navigator?
    You're right Steve Andler, Google should have done it the right way and forced people to buy its crappy navigation software or else locked down their GPS, now THAT's the way to encourage innovation

  • hazydave

    The portable navigation device people are starting to experience what anyone who thinks they have a slow growing, nearly static market will eventually experience — someone else's cool new thing disrupting their slow moving tech.

    I mean, look at the modern GPS device… they have maybe improved incrementally, but they all ration this technology out… no one wants to be too disruptive. And they're nickel and diming and dollaring everyone … $50-$100 for a new set of maps every year or two? More cash for traffic advisories. Where's the innovation?

    Google's doing something nice for consumers with hardware (the GPS chip) you already had to pay for and a database (the maps database) they've developed anyway. GPS vendors could build better maps, or offer them low cost, but they've decided their strategy is to hit the customer with big fees. No shock that consumers would prefer something at least potentially better (potentially anyway… always up-to-date maps. It's an issue if you're off the network, at least until they allow caching) for less money.

    And Google's only setting that bar… they're not suggesting someone else can't innovate, and produce a better navigation device. But like so many before them (MP3 player makers, DVR makers, etc)… they fail to address the idea that "GPS" is really just a software function, and will inevitably migrate to general purpose devices as those GP devices get better.

    If Garmin or Tom-Tom or NIM dude hasn't innovated… don't blame Google. Check a nearby mirror for the problem.

  • joey

    I dont think you can ever blame google for throwing their extra money and simply putting companies out of business, just because they can. I dont see how Google directly makes money out of this, but someday, hopefully they will make more money than all those they displaced.

    However, to developers, this could pose the question whether it is indeed productive to develop on google, since, if your app gains popularity or cover a hole in Android, you may suddenly be staring in to Googles barrels. Take Exchange Sync for instance. Sure it is free for users when it comes from Google. But would the existing ActiveSync solution vendors be happy about Google putting them out of business by simply providing a below-par activesync client with 2.0 ? If these companies were to simply disappear because the applications google builds in its spare time make them redundant, will the users win ultimately ?

  • Hetal Patel

    Integrating IE was a Problem as Other Browsers were Free.

    But Here Navigation is Free and Other Stuff are Paid. Here of course Consumers Interest is Protected and Google was not at all Killing the Person who made offline GPS System. till the time none of them actual made offline Maps too available except some Companies. This is more of hype.

    I support Google here

  • I'm not going to pretend like Google is some big fluffy teddy bear of a company, when it comes down to it they are at it to make money, just like any other company. However, one of the things that appeals to me the most with Google is that they listen to the consumer rather than the consumer listening to them, like Garmin or TomTom (or especially someone like Apple).

    I would think that Garmin or TomTom and the like could see this a potential win. Why not make Android / Google Experience navigation units? Beef it up with their own nav stuff and throw in some more useful features? Morph into more of a nav first MID?

  • mlayer

    I work for a company in the GPS space and the office was buzzing when we found out. Fortunately, we are in the vertical space, not the consumer space, so we're not threatened the way Garmin and TomTom are. We're looking forward to Google developing a platform for the nav app, which will hopefully provide a low-cost licensing model for us to use as opposed to WinCE right now. There are lots of opportunities that will arise out of this, it's up to companies to take advantage. Unfortunately for the legacy companies, they've spent a lot of time and money on their products, IP, and map data. To see Google potentially take a big chunk out of that is shocking. It's not so much that Google could kill the PND since the PND is due for a downfall anyway. It's that the PND makers were hoping for phone apps to be a good source of revenue in transition and Google is killing that.

  • Greg

    Sore loser says what?