Microsoft secretly participated in a recent $25 million funding round for Israel-based navigation solutions provider Waze, Israeli tech site TheMarker reported last week. Microsoft makes very few investments each year according to TheMarker’s source, but the tech giant apparently took quite an interest in Waze’s unique brand of navigation apps. “Waze is a social mobile application providing free turn-by-turn navigation based on the live conditions of the road. 100% powered by users, the more you drive, the better it gets,” the company’s website states. The company’s apps provide free voice-guided navigation to users, and also provide real-time data such as traffic conditions and speed trap alerts based on both automatic and manual feedback from each of Waze’s 4.5 million users around the world. While the terms of Microsoft’s investment were not revealed, the move is an interesting one — Microsoft is now in bed with Nokia, owner of navigation giant Navteq, and it will supply the OS for Nokia’s smartphones moving forward. Microsoft has already announced that it will use Navteq to power future navigation solutions in its Windows Phone OS, but it looks like a unique version of Waze for Windows Phone is in the works as well. More →
On a brisk day in October almost a year ago, Google announced Android 2.0 alongside the Motorola DROID. On that same day, satellite navigation companies like Garmin and TomTom saw their stock prices deflate faster than Yankees fans’ spirits in the sixth inning last night. This was no coincidence. With Android 2.0, Google announced the addition of free satellite-guided turn-by-turn navigation to its popular Google Maps service. Garmin and TomTom both saw mobile as a big part of their futures, and here Google was breaking the space wide open. How can paid services possibly compete?
Netherlands-based navigation giant TomTom found at least one possible answer to that question this morning when it announced a new partnership with HTC. It is becoming increasingly difficult to sell smartphone-based navigation products directly to consumers, so the key is to get manufacturers and carriers to pay for these solutions — and to pay for new solutions that utilize the current Location Based Services (LBS) craze. TomTom, after all, provides much more functional and polished mobile navigation solutions than Google ever will.
The new deal announced this morning places TomTom’s maps in HTC’s new integrated navigation solution, HTC Locations, which HTC calls a “zero-wait navigation experience”. The service will initially be available on the HTC Desire HD and HTC Desire Z, and only in Europe and Asia. HTC Locations will expand to new devices and regions, though no further release schedule was provided.
The catch? HTC Locations will be free to end users, along with some basic functionality. Turn-by-turn navigation, however, will be a premium paid add-on, making it a much less appealing option than it could have been if HTC ate the expense as a value-add. Unless HTC decides to block Google Maps Navigation from its HTC Locations-equipped devices, we don’t see this new deal going very far at all. Sorry TomTom, looks like you’ll have to reroute your trip yet again. More →