Businesses are moving faster than ever in this digital economy, and entrepreneurs build and showcase new innovative products or business models every day. The term that is thrown around to describe this phenomenon is called ‘disruption’. As an example, the iPod and iTunes Store disrupted the music industry in a way that forced companies to re-invent their businesses. Remember back in the 1990s when you could find an actual record store? Sure, most of us bought CDs, but it was still a store dedicated to the sale of music. I have fond memories of visiting Blockbuster Music and trying out CDs before I bought them.

The Data Center, by Tu Holmes

The Data Center, by Tu Holmes

But Apple changed all of that. They disrupted an established market where prices were fairly constant and controlled and turned it on its head with both an innovative product (iPod), and an innovative business model (iTunes Store). They forced businesses who didn’t keep up to close. They forced producers to put a more solid set of 10-12 songs on an album since consumers could now just buy the one or two they wanted for a fraction of the cost of the album. This is disruptive innovation, a collection of ideas that largely makes up the work of Clayton M. Christensen’s Disruption Theory1.

Many established businesses came to be from big innovations that made them the standard in an industry. Garmin is one of those companies—largely known for consumerizing GPS technology. Through the 1990s and 2000s, they continually innovated on their consumer GPS technology2 to go from just your lat/long coordinates to breadcrumbs to moving maps for roads, oceans, and airways. They found ways to embed their technology into cars with turn by turn direction. Some of us have the external units that suction cup to the window, and others have it built in.

This market is currently being disrupted something fierce by smartphones and turn-by-turn directions. With  few exceptions, I can’t imagine someone with this capability on their smartphone shelling out hundreds of dollars on another device with another cable and another subscription.

/lalala, by striatic

/lalala, by striatic

I recently went to investigate updating the maps on my in-vehicle GPS and was shocked to learn that Garmin wanted $250 for the new map package. $250! That’s more than the price of a new external GPS, and don’t forget the package is updated every year.

Garmin is missing a massive opportunity to control in-vehicle navigation in the mobile market. I can assure you, I would rather have a touch screen with all kinds of vehicular automation without a GPS feature than be forced to pay each year to update the map. I’m not saying that Garmin needs to give it out for free, but if they do choose to charge for it they should pick a small price to create subscription revenue. Something like $20/year for the new maps would be acceptable.

Some investors in major funds have taken a bearish attitude toward Garmin, so maybe this may help adjust expectations. Even though Apple has shown us that turn-by-turn navigation in a smart phone isn’t perfect, for the most part it is an acceptable analog—especially when you need an address on a street that didn’t exist a few years ago.

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  1. Google this for tons and tons of stuff. []
  2. Including that failed call phone product, remember that? []