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Garmin to Gobble Up Navigon

The rumors floating around Internet over the last couple of weeks have turned out to be true. Garmin is making the move to acquire Navigon, maker of the popular MobileNavigator app for iOS and Android. Frankly, this shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone who knows much about the mobile world. The market for stand-alone GPS receivers is gradually disappearing at the hands of GPS-enabled cell phones. Big name GPS apps available for pretty much every mobile platform have grown to a point of maturity where they now rival the capabilities of the stand-alone GPS. Many of these apps now include map files and extensive POI databases installed on the device, as well as traffic services. However, capacitive touch screen smartphones add even more value to the equation, bring a level of interface design and interactive capability that set them apart. Add in the always-on connection of the cell phone, and you have search, communication, and social networking options that no stand-alone unit can match.

While other established navigation companies such as Navigon, TomTom, Magellan, and CoPilot have all invested time developing and refining their various apps, Garmin tried to set off on its own and successfully build its own Android-based cell phone. What they ended up with was an expensive device that tried to do too much, and didn’t excel at anything. After coming to their senses last year, they finally joined the party and developed their own iOS app, called StreetPilot.

I reviewed it a little while after its initial release in the App Store, and would have to agree with the majority of user reviews. It has its good points, some of which, like the music interface and search options, are actually really good. However, overall it still has some big drawbacks in light of the stiff competition in the navigation category of the store. It is missing some of the advanced features that most of the other premium apps have, and it is the only one of the major iOS GPS apps that streams its maps from the Internet.

In acquiring Navigon, Garmin has instantly killed two birds with one stone. They will own one of the biggest and most established names in the iOS App Store’s Navigation section, and also get a foot in the door of the Android App Market. Sounds like a smart move to me. However, the question of what Garmin will actually do with Navigon still remains unanswered, and will for a while to come. Garmin, like all of the other major GPS brands, has a unique look and feel that is part of their brand identity, and that same look extends to their StreetPilot app. Will they gut MobileNavigator to make StreetPilot better? Will they just re-skin it with their familiar green, black, and white trademark motif and leave the functionality alone? Will they attempt to merge two apps that are so incredibly different? As a longtime user of MobileNavigator, I certainly hope they are smart enough to tread lightly on a good thing and keep it rolling rather than trying to re-invent the wheel. As with any large corporate affair, however, only time will tell.

The official press release is included below.

Garmin® Ltd. Announces Signing of Agreement To Acquire Navigon® AG

Schaffhausen, Switzerland and Hamburg, Germany /June 14, 2011/Business Wire — Garmin Ltd. (Nasdaq: GRMN) and Navigon AG announced today that Garmin Ltd. and the shareholders of Navigon AG have signed an agreement for a subsidiary of Garmin to acquire privately-held navigation provider Navigon AG (“Navigon”).
“This acquisition is a great complement to Garmin’s existing automotive and mobile business. Navigon has invested significantly in the European automotive OEM business, and we feel that we can rapidly expand our automotive OEM footprint and capabilities through this transaction,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and COO. “With Navigon, we are also acquiring one of the top-selling navigation applications for the iPhone and Android platforms – something that we expect will help drive revenue for the combined company going forward. Combining Navigon’s and Garmin’s strength also improves our competitiveness and standing particularly in Europe.”
Navigon is headquartered in Germany. In addition to its automotive OEM and navigation application for smartphones, the company has an estimated seven percent share in portable navigation devices (PNDs) in Europe. In regards PNDs, Navigon’s products are known for their compelling design, performance, and innovative software features.
“We look forward to sharing expertise, technologies, and relationships between Navigon and Garmin in order to serve more customers, expand product offerings, and lead the market in hardware and software innovation,” said Egon Minar, CEO of Navigon. “Our two companies each bring complementary strengths to the table, but what we share is a passion for customer satisfaction through innovation.”

Navigon will operate as a subsidiary of Garmin Ltd. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Financial terms of the transaction will not be released.

About Garmin Ltd.
The global leader in satellite navigation, Garmin Ltd. and its subsidiaries have designed, manufactured, marketed and sold navigation, communication and information devices and applications since 1989 – most of which are enabled by GPS technology. Garmin’s products serve automotive, mobile, wireless, outdoor recreation, marine, aviation, and OEM applications. Garmin Ltd. is incorporated in Switzerland, and its principal subsidiaries are located in the United States, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Garmin and Forerunner are registered trademarks and ANT+ and Garmin Connect are trademarks of Garmin Ltd. or its subsidiaries.

NAVIGON AG is a world-leading navigation company from Germany. With own portable navigation devices and thanks to successful partnerships in the consumer electronics, mobile phone service and automotive sectors NAVIGON stands for high-quality GPS navigation for PNDs, smartphones and other platforms. NAVIGON develops software for all relevant operating systems. NAVIGON was established in 1991, with subsidiaries in, Europe, Asia and North America.


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