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GPS App Store?


In the past couple of years we have seen a surge in “app stores”, mostly lead by various mobile phone companies. Apple’s App Store for the iPhone is the most widely known and the most successful. BlackBerry has since started one, an app store exists for the Android platform, and there are plenty of others too. Which makes me wonder… when will Garmin or TomTom start offering an App Store for GPS devices?

In a tiny way, Garmin and TomTom have both dipped their toes into the market. Garmin Games became available just over a year ago– but practically nobody has heard of it and games are perhaps not the “killer app” for GPS devices.

TomTom used to offer a SDK for their devices, aiming at corporations who wanted to provide customized applications to their fleets of devices. Grassroots users took advantage of the system to extend the functionality of TomTom devices. Applications to track mileage, provide off-road style navigation, MP3 and video players, and other applications were created. However TomTom has since discontinued the SDK program and those applications have had a difficult time remaining compatible with current TomTom application releases.

And let’s not forget Dash. While nearly defunct, there are 87 “DashApp” items listed, as well as numerous custom feeds.

At a time when the GPS companies could use a little revenue boost it might be worth the investment to create such a store. TomTom devices have been running on Linux since just about the start and more of Garmin’s latest devices are running on Linux. (And think of the possibilities from a connected device like the TomTom 740 LIVE). While the overhead of building an API layer on the devices and constructing an App Store would be large, I think GPS users would jump at the chance to extend the functionality of their devices.

So here is a shout-out to the GPS companies, especially Garmin and TomTom. Users are ready to extend the functionality of their devices in a ways that wouldn’t compete with your core navigation app. Users want specialized tools that you are not providing, and those tools are things you probably shouldn’t directly provide so you can continue to focus on core functionality. With a good selection of devices now running on Linux, give developers a SDK, provide a few good API hooks, and provide a way for anxious developers to earn some cash. You can take a cut, create a new revenue stream, and extend the usefulness of your products.

3 Responses

  1. I’ve had a feeling that TomTom is in the process of setting up an app store for a couple months now. Little things like every app update for the past few months disabling current 3rde party apps, to a bigger hint from a TomTom employee about 2 months ago. There’s also some indication that Garmin may be ready to roll out a big change this year that may also include optional apps. IMHO, it is coming. And there’s a fairly small window of opportunity for either of these two manufacturers. As quickly as the industry is changing, any app store rolled out this year may be useful for only a couple of years before connected services, perhaps on other platforms, make them moot.

    gatorguy - May 22nd, 2009
  2. It’s almost too late for an app store on a GPS. I fully expect a future iPod Touch (perhaps the one coming in October) will have a built in GPS and camera. That device, combined with the larger memory (256MB) and faster CPU and GPU of the iPhone 3GS, will be the perfect platform for third party GPS apps. Even the current iPod touch will be a great platform for GPS apps when the TomTom hardware is released later this summer. I think Garmin really missed the boat on this one.

    Mark - June 13th, 2009
  3. Just an update on this:

    TomTom Developer API

    Tim - April 27th, 2010

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