Helsinki: After hitting alarm clock makers and camera manufacturers, the cellphone industry has a new target - personal navigation device makers.
Handset makers see navigation as one of the next major value-adding offerings and even at this very early stage, analysts say the annual market for phone navigation is worth hundreds of millions of euros.
While a few years ago personal navigation device makers like Dutch TomTom shrugged off possible rivalry from the handset industry, they have now acknowledged the potential risk to their business.
The world’s top handset maker Nokia started to sell its first navigation phone N95 a month ago, and other top vendors are expected to follow shortly, hoping to make 2007 a breakthrough year for cellphone navigation.
The N95, with a 700-euro price tag, is not in reach of the masses despite first reports showing strong sales, but the Finnish firm aims to bring GPS positioning chips to a wide array of its products.
“I believe it will quickly go through almost our entire portfolio,” Kai Oistamo, head of Nokia’s Mobile Phones unit, told a recent news conference.
The GPS technology enables handset makers to bypass mobile phone network operators and at least some of the navigation phones can be used for routing when not connected to operators’ networks.
Operators would get a share of the business when real-time data traffic starts to grow. So far it is the handset makers’ dream that people will use phones to find restaurants nearby, but car navigation firms have already started to offer road data.