Indeed, about one year ago, when we first heard about Dash, their official press release stated: “The Dash Express will be available from www.dash.net and select retailers in California in early 2007, and will be available nationally next summer”. Then last May, when we spoke with Robert Acker, vice president marketing at Dash, the Christmas season was the target (read our article here) and now it is pushed back even later.
Despite the Silicon Valley hype (more awards than products on the shelves is a good sign of the phenomenon) surrounding Dash, we have always been cautious about the potential of such a start-up on a market where most of the profits are generated by a handful of players already selling million of devices a year.
When Dash Express was announced in September 2006 the innovation was real but as we stated earlier, selling a subscription for navigation is challenging: TomTom moved its GPRS-based traffic service to RDS-TMC due to the poor uptake of its TomTom Plus service by its customers. Additionally, in six months from now – and probably even before - some competitors might bring “Dash-like” solutions to the market, but probably with more established brand power, a larger offering from low end to high end devices and some channel experience in the PND arena. For example off-board navigation developer Jentro is currently developing the back-end of a connected PND for a major brand (watch here our interview with its CEO Hans-Hendrik Puvogel).
To succeed Dash Express will have to get its pricing and business model right and seriously train its channel partners at the shop floor level to sell its device. Ultimately they will have to agree on a final D-day for the launch: this does not seem to be the smallest issue.