With Google Maps Navigation causing ripples not only among Android users but in the share prices of Garmin, TomTom and other mapping providers, it seems some location-based services providers are coming out fighting. LaptopMag have been talking to Networks in Motion’s (NIM) Steve Andler, VP of marketing at the company responsible for Verizon’s VZ Navigator and the Gokivo iPhone app, and he’s pulling no punches about his opinion of Google. Andler describes the idea of Android as being open as “a bunch of hooey”, and even goes so far as to suggest that “Google is doing exactly what Microsoft did, which is, they integrate stuff into the core, leaving no room for anyone to innovate.”
Of course, it’s not surprising that Andler – and NIM – are frustrated, given the particular corner of software development they chose to carve out. Andler’s core argument about PND software is that it requires more than a few voice prompts on top of a map.
“[D]oing real-time navigation is a very complex problem. It’s not like doing something on the Internet, where you do it once and it pretty much works. And what you’re dealing with here is a map database that is brand-new, completely unproven, and is that really something that should be used for such a mission-critical function as real car navigation? So you can’t just put a bunch of smart programmers on this and assume that you’re going to have a stable, serviceable solution quickly.” Steve Andler, VP of marketing, NIM
Still, the marketing VP makes some broader points too, about application profitability and what space there is for development when Google keeps cherry-picking the best ideas. His argument is that navigation is one of the few areas in which developers could make money from subscription, and that if Google undermine that then all we’ll end up seeing is ad-supported PND. As for the latter point, that’s something we ourselves commented on at the launch of Android 2.0; much of the distinguishing elements of HTC Sense and MOTOBLUR – such as the social networking integration with the contacts – have now been folded into the core Contacts app, and we’re left wondering what’s next from the handset manufacturers to continue to differentiate their wares without forking Android altogether.