PNDs Hit the Road to Success

Carl Weinschenk

There's a hot new class of devices that are as valuable for mobile workers as for consumers. These gadgets are flashy and, if used correctly, make life easier and far more efficient.


Is it the smartphone? The iPhone? Tablet computers? Well, the jury is out on the first, the second hasn't been released, and the third is a disappointment to this point. The sure-fire hit -- the one few people are talking about -- is the emerging portable navigation device (PND) category.


PND makers definitely are enjoying their salad days. According to this story on (which originally ran in the San Jose Mercury News), analysts called for 5 million PND devices to be sold this year, after 3.5 million sales last year.


The story says dropping prices -- in part enabled by the sale of PNDs at big-box retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City -- has led Gartner to up its forecast to 7 million units. There are "whispers," according to the story, that 8 million devices could move. That would be quite an achievement: Not often do sales of a product exceed estimates by more than 35 percent.


PNDs clearly are a classification of device that straddle the line between consumer and professional use. Even casual Internet research suggests why the category is so active: Competition is driving down prices. For instance, this week, SiRF Technology Holdings introduced SiRFDiRect technology that it says enables low-cost portable navigation services formerly available only in permanently installed and therefore costlier services. It's impossible, of course, for us to verify the claim. The point is that the industry is squarely riding the cost reduction curve, which could account for both the aggressive estimates by analysts and the fact that these predictions seem to be coming up short., the cost competition is so fierce that JVC said last month that it is exiting the PND market -- and ceasing production of the eAvinu KV-PX9 -- in favor of in-dash devices.


It's a complex arena, and organizations with many traveling workers should dig deep into the research. Two good places to start are this Mercury News review of devices from TomTom (the TomTom One), Magellan (the Maestro 4050) and Gamin (the StreetPilot 2730). Useful information on what to look for in devices can be garnered in this PC Magazine piece.

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