Goodbye PND

Google announced the beta of their mobile navigation application yesterday.

It looks like a pretty fully featured navigation application, with voice recognition, plain English search, satellite imagery, streetview, POI’s on your route, live traffic feeds and of course no need to download map upgrades. Downsides – what happens when you lose internet connectivity which seems to happen every few minutes with my mobile service (perhaps service is a misnomer) and a few questions at this early stage about how accurate and up to date Google will be able to keep its own maps. It’s currently only available on Android and for North America but no doubt wider coverage and phone support will follow. Can’t wait for the iPhone UK version.

I guess this has been waiting for Google to phase out TeleAtlas who had prevented them offering a mobile nav service to protect their lucrative contracts with PND manufacturers (one of whom ultimately bought TA and are now sitting on a turkey). It won’t be long before Google extends their coverage – think StreetView vehicles driving round Europe photographing and quietly mapping as they go. Not sure that many people saw this coming, I certainly didn’t.

So what is the future of Personal Navigation Devices? Somehow I can’t see Google wiping them all out but the manufacturers are certainly going to have to dramatically step up the pace of innovation and deliver some much more compelling interfaces and applications if they are going to convince people to spend ca £100 plus service charges. At the very least we will see some pretty intense price competition over the next few years. How Nokia are going to make a return on their massive purchase of Navteq was always a mystery to me (business as usual was never going to do it) now it looks like maps and navigation will be a costly to maintain low to no revenue must have feature for them.

Respect to Navteq and TeleAtlas CEO’s – looks like you sold at just the right time.