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Next Battleground for Web Portals is Your Car

Navigation vendors and automakers alike have been engaged in a continual struggle to differentiate their navigation offerings. 2006 has finally brought such features as traffic information and text-to-speech to navigation. ABI Research analysts believe the next steps are 3D renderings, images of buildings, and location-aware search, all of which play right into the strengths of Web portals.

"Google, and Microsoft's, are portals that provide visual display and location-aware search very similar in functionality and appearance to some of the hybrid connected navigation and telematics systems in Japan, such as Honda's Internavi and Toyota's G-Book," says ABI Research's principal transportation analyst Dan Benjamin. "This type of integration really makes a lot of sense. Google has been making a big push into location-aware advertising, and the portals have already made arrangements to get satellite and/or photographic imagery that is not necessarily offered by the map providers in the navigation space. Why not get search hits and push location-aware relevant advertising on top of points of interest?"

ABI Research's transportation research practice director, Frank Viquez, agrees. "It's understandable why Honda and Volkswagen are working with Google to get this into vehicles, but it also highlights the inherent difficulties and demands of the automotive environment. In order to utilize such applications, vehicles will need increased processing power, graphics acceleration, and a high-speed data connection."

Viquez notes that smaller portable navigation devices that have proven popular would be at a disadvantage in all of these categories. "As PNAV devices take on a greater infotainment role through the support of video and MP3 playback, real-time traffic data and soon satellite radio, it becomes increasingly difficult to add new functions while maintaining a pocketable form factor. It may make more sense for this type of content to be delivered to integrated automotive hardware, or perhaps a smartphone, rather than to the typical portable device."

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