The era of the classic Personal Navigation Device (PND), as you might get from Garmin or TomTom, is nearly done, according to business intelligence firm Berg Insight. It claims that PND shipments will hit 42 million units next year – and will never be that good again, falling off year by year after that.
What’s the story?
According to Berg, the downfall of the PND has already begun in Europe and America – but growth markets like China, Russia and India won’t be enough to shore those figures up. While an impressive 42 million units are predicted to ship next year, growing competition from several other sectors are going to eat away at the device format.
Mobile devices: smartphones are possibly the biggest threat to PNDs. Most high-end smartphones have in-built GPS capabilities, and navigation software from Nokia and Google is available for free on their respective device platforms. Not only that, but developers are building navigation capability into apps that can run on multiple platforms – navigation software firm TeleNav recently released a set of developer tools that will enable navigation tools to be embedded in basically any application on any phone.
In-dash: car manufacturers have been in the habit of computerizing their vehicles for some time now. Navigation instruments are so small now that it’s no great problem for a manufacturer to embed a navigation device in the dashboard of a car. And since in-car navigation is the primary market for PNDs, this has taken a chunk out of their sales.
What’s to come?
Berg predicts that PND vendors will try to add new features to their devices, in order to make them more appealing. We’ve already seen moves like this from Garmin, which has released several PNDs that are also smartphones. While sales of the devices haven’t been too impressive, Berg claims that by 2015, 80% of all PNDs will have cellular connectivity.
What we think?
I believe that PNDs are going to be an unfortunate casualty of convenience. Navigation apps on smartphones do get the job done, but they’re not as well suited to the task as a properly designed PND. Unfortunately, navigation software can almost always be had for free if you’ve got a smartphone in your pocket. I’ve done a road test with both Google Navigation on my Android, and a borrowed Garmin. And the Garmin did a better job… but not enough of a better job for me to be able justify buying another device.