GPS technology has been around for 30 years and existed as a consumer device for the past decade, slowly moving from an expensive novelty (“Hey, I can tell where I’m located using a satellite!”) to something looming on the periphery of the mainstream as prices decline, devices becomes more user-friendly and more services are created.
But based on anecdotal experience and the fact you can’t browse through a consumer electronics flyer without seeing multiple GPS units vying for your attention, 2008 is going to be the year GPS truly goes mainstream.
In some respects, GPS has been a cool technology looking for a problem to solve. It was great for people, for example, who did outdoor sports such as camping, mountain climbers and hikers and for geocaching. but it was arguably a niche product.
For whatever reason, the GPS market has evolved or matured. It now appears the GPS has found its mainstream sweet-spot as a must-have for drivers going from point A to point B – a huge market. No matter if you’re tooling around town or taking long trips, the GPS is starting to appeal to everyone. In fact, it’s starting to replace map books such as Perly’s that people kept in the glove box of their cars.
With GPS units being easy to use and configure, there’s little pain of buying a $100 to $300 unit from a GPS maker such as Garmin and TomTom. Even if you don’t use it that often, more people see clearly having one as no longer a luxury but a requirement.
Meanwhile, GPS is making aggressive inroads in the cell phone market where more units are GPS-equiped – something carriers love because it generates even more revenue/users. Most of these services cost $5 to $10/month and give you everything from voice navigation and restaurant reviews to event listings.
Now, if they made GPS units for urban bicycle commuters, then I might consider one to navigate Toronto’s network of back alleys.
Note: Last year, 33.9 million GPS units were sold compared with 11.9 million in 2006. In the U.S., 10% of drivers own a GPS device compared with 20% in Europe. And speaking of GPS, you know it’s really hit the mainstream when you see lots of interest in a story about a Swedish art student who created a large “drawing” using GPS.
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