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Google Gets Tough on Personal Navigation Devices

December 10, 2013 | About:
Muhammad Bazil

Muhammad Bazil

With the emerging telematics market on the rise, the scramble to lock down a share of the market has officially begun. Today, we see yet another player stepping up to bat as Google (GOOG) lays out a strict set of compliance standards for using their extremely successful Android operating system in personal navigation devices (or PNDs) as well as in-car platforms (such as the well-known OnStar system).

What That Means for Manufacturers

These regulations will prove tough for the many manufacturers who are not members of the Open Mobile Alliance (or OMA), an organization of mobile device manufacturers and suppliers which works to set universal operating standards for their members’ devices around the globe.

This means that PND vendors outside of the alliance will have a hard time getting their devices and software up to date and in line with the OMA standards. And if they can’t meet these standards, they are unlikely to be able to meet Google’s new regulations. Many non-OMA developers find it tough enough making their devices compatible with the advanced Android operating system as it is.

What That Means for Us

But these new regulations could end up being a great thing for users of personal navigation devices or other in-car telematics systems. By setting these strict guidelines and demanding they be followed, Google is making sure that we only get devices that are actually capable of supporting their operating system.

It’s one thing to install the Android operating system on a device. It’s quite another to make sure that the device has the right hardware and is powerful enough to run the operating system without crashing or otherwise messing up.

That’s not to say users won’t end up bearing the brunt of these new restrictions as manufacturers often subscribe to the philosophy of passing the costs on to the customers. Since getting its devices up to par to comply with Google standards will mean spending more time and money on developing its products for the market, we can expect to see a corresponding rise in retail prices.

But, in my opinion, the trade off is worth it. In the long run, it is much more economical to pay a bit more for a device that works than to save a few bucks on one that’s going to keep crashing (especially when it comes to navigation and other in-car services that we typically prefer to have working continuously).

Loopholes and Back Doors

While the big-name companies aren’t going to have much of a problem meeting Google’s new compliance standards, the smaller brands are definitely going to be looking for ways around the rigid guidelines.

This means they will likely go the way of the PC and smartphone. That is, they are probably going to resort to white box manufacturing. This is a very popular trend in China and most of the developing world because many name-brand products are priced well out of the budget range of a majority of the customer base.

Essentially, they will start manufacturing unbranded products or selling the software and parts in pieces to smaller companies who lack the resources or engineering team to develop their own technology.

Going this route would mean they could completely evade industry regulations and keep prices as low as possible. That’s great for those on a tight budget but not so great for those who depend heavily on its personal navigation devices or other telematics devices.

Google’s Possible Reasoning

Google knows full well the power it has with its highly sought-after Android operating system. By setting out strict compliance standards, they can better control who is using their products. I can imagine this has a lot of potential benefits for the company.

It can better uphold its reputation. The Google name is associated with a lot of innovative products, services and technologies. If the Android operating system starts getting installed on devices that can’t support it, users may start to blame the operating system itself for any malfunctions.

This also could allow it to secure its piece of the telematics pie. Google can use these strict compliance standards strategically to benefit manufacturers with whom it has established mutually beneficial business partnerships. This way, it makes sure it sees its share of the profits from this up-and-coming market.


There’s definitely a lot going on behind this decision to set strict compliance standards. While it’s going to be tougher on PND vendors, it will also have definite benefits for both consumers and Google. We’ll have to wait and watch as more news comes out on this story.

About the author:

Muhammad Bazil
Muhammad Bazil is a financial journalist and editor for a variety of websites, public policy organizations, and book publishers. He has written hundreds of published articles and blog posts on topics including budgeting, credit management, real estate and investing. His articles have been featured on the homepage of Yahoo!, MSN and numerous local news websites.

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