GPS makers TomTom ready to launch mapping App Store

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When Nokia decided to make Ovi Maps free, including the navigation and route planning, there was a lot of discussion about what this would mean for companies like Tom Tom, who make dedicated GPS units. Well now TomTom’s chief, Harold Goodijn, has announced their intention to have an “App Store” on the units, to go along with the new Operating System software powering the device.

Nokia announced the change to Ovi Maps in late January 2010, and when discussing the new plans Goodjin stated that the decision to break the code on the device and the backend during 2009, so this isn’t a direct reaction to the Ovi move, but more an indication of where the market is naturally evolving to.

With this new platform based on the webkit engine, the hope for TomTom is that porting applications from other platforms into their own should be relatively easy. Of course the same i true in both directions, and any developer is going to realise that Nokia’s web runtime kit also has its basis in webkit, so there could be some commonality.

There’s no launch date, but the expectation is “before the end of the year”. While there are some challenges for TomTom (such as a lot of their device usage is while customers are driving), this is a clear case of a rising tide that floats all boats equally. The mobile industry have acknowledged that mapping and location based services are one of the growth areas, so it’s only natural for TomTom to get involved – but can a dedicated device make inroads into a very competitive developer market?

-- Ewan Spence, May 2010.