Google drives into new market with Maps Navigation beta

Google's service for Android users strikes a blow at GPS navigation businesses

If you're an Android user, Google is hoping to help you get where you're going.

The company today unveiled the beta version of Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0 devices . Basically, Google is trying its hand at a GPS system - and another lucrative business market.

"This new feature comes with everything you'd expect to find in a GPS navigation system, like 3D views, turn-by-turn voice guidance and automatic rerouting," wrote Keith Ito, a Google software engineer, on a blog post today . "But unlike most navigation systems, Google Maps Navigation was built from the ground up to take advantage of your phone's Internet connection."

Ito noted that the new beta release is designed for voice search so users don't have to type on their phones in a vehicle. It will also offer live traffic data, satellite imagery, the ability to find businesses along your route, and a street view.

For Google, the company is not only offering a new feature for the Android , but it's also diving headlong into a new market . And that, according to Dan Olds, principal analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, is a good idea.

"With this product, Google injects itself into a new market and has the potential to cause serious pain for the existing players, like Garmin and TomTom, while giving potential customers one more solid reason to switch to a Google-powered phone," Olds said. "It's a lot easier to justify the switch to a new device if it takes the place of two devices, like a phone and a navigation device, and if it does the job better."

Google has shown a knack for branching out into new markets. Over the years, it has spread from its search business to maps, operating systems and browsers , for example. Moving into the navigation realm is just one more step.

"This gives Google the potential to pioneer yet another new business model, allowing business to pay for placement on Google Navigation routes," added Olds. "I can see a time down the road when a Google Navigation user on a car trip can use their phone to look for nearby restaurants and get a list customized to her taste, along with maybe an e-coupon for a big discount if they come in now. Or even the ability to order the meal over the phone and have it ready when they get there. This is a business model that is right up Google's alley and could be very profitable -- low cost, high customer impact."

According to Google, the first phone to have Google Maps Navigation and Android 2.0 is the Droid from Verizon. Google Maps Navigation is available immediately in the U.S.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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