The Dash Express, the hot new GPS featuring two-way connectivity, has caused a paradigm shift in the GPS industry. We have yet to see how broadly the Dash will be accepted, though they seem to have had a strong launch, with high initial shipments according to the sales rankings at Amazon (updated hourly).
There are a couple of key components to two-way connectivity:
- Internet search – At least two other GPS companies are moving to integrate this into devices in the U.S., as discussed below
- Crowd-sourced traffic - For now, Dash is the only manufacturer trying to bring us this feature, providing traffic updates via anonymized cell phone data relayed from other Dash users (though there are companies focusing on this technology that other GPS manufacturers could partner with)
While not a benefit of two-way connectivity, Dash's built-in wifi will also give them the ability to push large map and firmware updates to the units.
Let’s look at the status of other GPS manufacturers as they move (or don’t move) to implement two-way connectivity:
Status: In process
Details: Magellan is getting ready to roll out the Magellan Maestro Elite 5340+GPRS for the ridiculous price of $1299. It will feature Google Local search, but besides big bucks you better have lots of patience if you want this one. Originally slated to appear in March, TigerGPS.com is now indicating a July ship date.
Status: Europe only
Details: Mio is releasing a connected device in Europe, but has no plans to bring it to the U.S.
Details: TomTom has played with cellular connectivity before, with their PLUS services, but their subscription rate must be very low. Dash got this right when they made connectivity the central feature of the Express and created an expectation that most users would pay the monthly fee. TomTom appears to, for now at least, be pushing Map Share as a way to give users updated maps and POIs, though this has to happen at your PC and not over the air. But there are continuing rumors of a TomTom phone that would allow them to implement two-way connectivity. EDIT: Thanks to Fred for his comment below, reminding me that TomTom is introducing two-way connectivity in Europe, complete with crowd-sourced traffic.
Status: No publicly announced plans
Details: Navigon has not announced any plans for a connected device and, as a smaller entity, may not have the financial resources to pursue it either. Their closest related technology focuses on getting map updates in the hands of consumers on a quarterly basis.
Status: In process
Details: Not surprisingly, Garmin is moving on this front. Their take appears to be that consumers will not want to pay for two cellular subscriptions. The Garmin nuvifone, due in Q3 2008, is their solution. Offering Google Local search, the nuvifone is also slated to support real-time traffic, though we do not yet know who the provider will be. Garmin has given no indication that they intend to utilize crowd-sourced data, though surely that is coming even if it’s in a later-generation nuvifone. Perhaps we’ll learn more at CTIA this week.
Meanwhile, Dash has a head start and will continue to improve their product. I have to wonder about their business prospects though, and how many units they can sell. By developing the first commercial crowd-sourced traffic model for consumer GPS, they are going to acquire a treasure trove of data. Perhaps their end game is to be bought, by Garmin or by a cell phone manufacturer. File that one under pure speculation.
New business models to emerge?
One final word. Sooner or later, someone is going to offer an advertising-supported model that will eliminate the monthly fee for those willing to view geographically and possibly interest-based ads.