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Google Navigation Finds Its Way

No informed industry watcher should be surprised by the news that Google's forthcoming Android 2.0 will include a free turn-by-turn navigation feature. For the digital mapping expert, it's a natural extension to its mobile operating system, which is rapidly shaping up to be a real force of nature. Yet, a natural extension for the resource-rich Google is enough to catch even the savviest media-type off guard. "Including [satellite navigation] in a phone for free?" writes the Guardian. "Are they mad?"

The Times writes that the feature "is likely to be seen as an attack on yet another industry," before quoting several analysts who agree, in effect, that "Google's free service, if successful, could erode the sales of GPS navigation devices made by companies like Garmin and TomTom and of navigation services offered by cellphone carriers."

The Maps for Mobile service lets users search "in plain English", by voice, give you "live traffic data," "search along route" when they need to find a business en route, satellite view, and street view. As Keith Ito, who wrote the Google blog post says, "Take Google Maps Navigation for a spin, and bring Internet-connected GPS navigation with you in your car."

More broadly, Forbes writes that the move "signals a bigger effort by Google to increase its reach to include the organization of people's information and lives to sources far from the standard Internet."

What's more, Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, tells the magazine that, "Google's strategic thinking is dominated by the confluence of ever-increasing computing power (as seen in what an Android device can do), mobile connectivity (which provides real-time data, as well as access to the network) and cloud computing. "If you put all three of those into designing software, it changes things," he said. Right.

Regarding this latest development, analyst Greg Sterling writes: "I hate the word 'disruptive,' as it's often used in the Internet world, because it's something of a cliché ... But I use it here because the new Navigation for Google Maps for Mobile will in fact be -- disruptive."

Writes (mocks?) theAppleBlog.com, "But hey, maybe it isn't so bad for you, GPS industry ... Maybe people will still want to pay way too much for single-purpose devices instead of installing a free app on the cell phone they already have that works with the Google Maps and Google Search they already use." Harsh

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