As you may recall, TomTom introduced two new models to its line of in-car GPS--the TomTom GO 930 and GO 730--the other week. During the prebriefing for these products, I spoke with TomTom USA President Jocelyn Vigreux via phone to get the lowdown on all the latest features, talk about TomTom's place in the market, and all things GPS. I learned little nuggets like:
- The portable navigation device (PND) market has grown 333 percent in 2007 versus 2006.
- There's still less than 6 percent market penetration: 14 million PNDs sold compared with the 240 million cars on the road.
- TomTom is the No. 2 GPS brand in North America and saw a 579 percent growth in 2007.
Now, this is all well and good (and frankly, a lot of marketing speak), but let's get to the juicy stuff, right? Without mentioning the Garmin Nuvifone by name, I asked Vigreux whether TomTom would make a move toward the GPS/cell phone space to which he jokingly said, "Why do you bring this up?" "Just out of curiosity," I sheepishly replied. But being the good sport that he is, Vigreux answered my question. He said TomTom's main focus is and will continue to be in-car GPS--for the near future, anyway. He didn't completely rule out getting into that converged market (and let's not forget that TomTom's navigation software is available on a number of smartphones and car kit solutions, including the Palm GPS Navigator Kit and HTC P3470), but TomTom's main focus is providing drivers with the best and most useful tools for getting to their destination. Forget all the extra stuff like multimedia. And I, for one, applaud that notion.
I've repeatedly noted in my GPS reviews that multimedia capabilities on a PND seem like superfluous fluff to me--a way for manufacturers to say, "Hey, look what else our product can do!" The features are often half-baked or so severely restricted that it makes real-life usability pretty slim. So I really commend TomTom for concentrating on just navigation functions.
As for a GPS phone, I say TomTom is OK staying out of it for now. This area of convergence is certainly a burgeoning one and early adopters and tech lovers love it. Plus, you've got device manufacturers like Nokia, HTC, and Research in Motion committed to the technology. And I'll give props to Garmin for making the leap into the smartphone market, but I'm just a tad worried the company jumped the gun and the Nuvifone will be a flop. Still, the bigger question remains: Is the majority of consumers ready for it when they're still weary of standalone PNDs? I have my doubts. But hey, why don't you tell me? Are you more willing to buy a standalone GPS or a cell phone with integrated GPS and why? Do you think the Garmin Nuvifone will be a hit? Should TomTom follow suit? Holler at me in the Comment section below.