TomTom Gets New Directions From Google

The navigation gear maker strikes a deal that could slow competition from mobile phones loaded with GPS.

TomTom, the Dutch-based navigation device maker, said Dec. 5 it is teaming with Google to allow users to send business addresses directly from the Google Maps Web site to TomTom devices.

To accommodate TomTom customers, Google Maps' local search page has been expanded to include a "Send to GPS" button. The option allows a one-click transfer without downloading .zip files.

"The ability to search, find and send information from the Web to a TomTom is something we have been investing in for some time now," Eric Pite, vice president for product management at TomTom, said in a statement.

The selected information from Google Maps is transferred to the TomTom device when the device is connected to the Internet via TomTom HOME, the free software application TomTom offers its customers. Drivers can then navigate to their new destination, as well as view the location on the map of the TomTom device or save it as a favorite on the device for later use.

"We are constantly working to make our maps more useful so they become a one-stop shop for finding all the local information and directions that people need," Giorgio Scherl, product manager at Google, said in a statement.

For TomTom, the arrangement could help stave off increasing competition from cell phone makers who are starting to add GPS to their devices. In October, Nokia paid $8.1 billion to acquire digital mapmaker Navteq.

Navteq provides map information for automotive navigation systems, mobile navigation systems and Internet-based mapping applications. Nokia also owns, providing traffic information and content to consumers.

Nokia's decision to buy Navteq, analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates said in a recent interview with eWEEK, is not only a pre-emptive strike against fellow handset competitors such as Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericcson, but also against Google, which had been rumored to be interested in acquiring Navteq.

Gold predicted that LBS (location-based services) will be a "fundamental service offering for a wide array of mobile needs. LBS will be such a fundamental enabler that all search companies, entertainment suppliers and especially mobile marketing firms will have to include [it] in their infrastructure."

The Nokia-Navteq deal may also spell doom for Navteq's LBS competitors TomTom and Garmin, Gold said, unless other companies seeking to leverage the LBS technology move to acquire them. "Those guys are probably not long for this world," Gold said. "Where are they going be three years from now when all smart phones have GPS chips?"

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