Outdoor GPS market fueled by new devices and content

Garmin Oregon
Garmin Oregon
The release of a new range of outdoor GPS handhelds by Garmin this week highlights the momentum gained by this market which started to switch from hardcore to more casual users. Indeed, the new Oregon range from Garmin has all to seduce the outdoor GPS neophyte: a 3 inches color touch screen, a nice-looking form factor and an easy to understand and colorful icon-based menu.

“The market for outdoor GPS solutions is finally moving beyond the stage of a niche, early adopter market,” says ABI Research principal analyst Dominique Bonte who recently published a report on this topic. “The use of advanced handheld outdoor GPS devices recently launched by Garmin, Magellan, DeLorme and Bushnell requires only limited specialist knowledge compared to their predecessors.”

But the growth of this market is not pushed by easy to use hardware alone. Indeed, ABI noticed: “A remarkable development is the emergence of many social networking community sites launched by GPS vendors, map providers, outdoor retailers and magazine publishers. These sites allow users to exchange GPS tracks and their outdoor experiences via geotagged pictures and other multimedia content, and are quickly becoming key drivers for the uptake of outdoor devices. Similarly, geocaching and location-based entertainment applications such as Groundspeak’s Wherigo are contributing to the success of outdoor GPS solutions.”

The development of online outdoor mapping and content such as developed by Fugawi Touratel, National Geographic Maps, gpsies.com or everytrail.com are all contributing to sell outdoor GPS hardware.

Garmin Oregon: easy to use touchscreen menu
Garmin Oregon: easy to use touchscreen menu
Phone-based solutions
“A new category of converged outdoor solutions is emerging”, also noticed ABI Research, “with Trimble Outdoors and Wayfinder having recently launched software applications that allow users to employ their existing phones for outdoor navigation.”

But so far these solutions have been limited to casual outdoor because most of their features requires a connection to a network. “While this trend will certainly help grow the market and increase user awareness, these solutions will not be able to displace dedicated outdoor GPS devices with their unique rugged features and optimized hardware design”, explains ABI. This analysis from ABI might be true today, however it is highly possible to see in the near future handset makers such as Nokia or Samsung to launch rugged phones integrating a GPS. Both companies have experience in the matter with devices such as the Nokia 5140i, Nokia 5500 Sport or the Samsung M110.

Market’s limitations
However, cautions Bonte, several barriers still hinder outdoor solutions in reaching mass market status. “The availability, price and quality of topographical maps are major issues, especially in Europe”. Where the PND market was very successful in its ability to offer a full European coverage at a decent price, the outdoor markets really suffers from the fragmentation of the map providers in terms of price, standards and quality.

Friday, July 11th 2008

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