Comment: Will TomTom end the £1500 in-car satnav?

With the announcement that TomTom is to embed its satnav into the Toyota Yaris are we finally to see the end to £1500 satnav options on a new car's spec sheet? Or, is this the end of the GPS receiver market?

I mean why are they that price anyway? We know that thanks to companies like TomTom, Navman, Garmin and Mio even the most expensive models, complete with FM transmitters, Bluetooth and included MP3 players, picture viewer and sometimes travel guides only cost around £600 maximum, yet manufacturers consistently insist that a built-in option will cost you the earth. Why?

The screens aren't necessarily bigger, the features are normally lacking against the portable options, and you can't easily update them either.

I'm sure car manufacturers have an answer for the price hike, something like "you get software that has been tried and tested" (read: old) or "you get a better signal because it uses the car to boost it".

While that might have been true in the first year of portable GPS - we've had our fair share of problems with all the manufacturers - that isn't the case now. The latest batch of releases have seen bigger screens, improved software, and better features than ever before.

But more worrying perhaps for manufacturers and consumers is that is the move by TomTom likely to be the start of the end for the portable GPS?

We can see the reasoning. As with car stereos, theft is becoming a big issue for your average GPS user and a built-in option would cut this out of the equation just like it did when car companies started offering built-in car stereos.

GPS crime seems to have affected everyone. I've had one nicked from my car and I know at least two other people personally who've been a victim of crime as well. A built-in offering makes sense, but only if there is an easy way of being able to update it.

If you had the option of spending just £200 on a built-in unit you are more likely to go for it - despite the manufacturers trying to angle the portability of devices as a selling point, most people don't bother using GPS out of the car.

Being able to update it however is key to the success. Will this see the dawn of adding Wi-Fi to your car? Companies may take the introduction of the new technology to add a hard drive to your car so you can store music, video, images and the like.

Transferring data would be easy as all you'll have to do it pull up to a Wi-Fi hotspot (or park in your drive) and transfer the files across. Heck, it could even be used by companies like Apple and its new Wi-Fi iTunes store to sell you songs from petrol stations around the country.

Perhaps seeing that this is the way it's going to go, TomTom have jumped early:

"Bringing our extensive navigation experience and insight into the automotive industry is an integral part of our long-term business strategy. The embedded solution offers an affordable and improved user experience to customers and we are delighted to launch this industry first with leading automotive manufacturer Toyota", says Harold Goddijn, TomTom's CEO.

If that is the case then we are likely to see the market shrink as companies try and team up with car companies. Perhaps Ford will go with Garmin, maybe Honda with Navman?

Is it a good thing for the consumer? It will be, but only if it's easy to update - I like my maps, speed camera alerts and points of interest to be up-to-the-minute accurate.


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