WAT: Why Europeans did not get Google’s free turn-by-turn navigation on Motorola Milestone

Once in a while, after certain events, theories  about the happenings in mobile industry start bouncing around my head.

Some of them turn out to be a complete BS, a few happen to be spot on, and quite a few are somewhere in the middle. I’d like to share them to get some input of whether I’m going completely bonkers, or not.

So I’m starting a new category of posts on UV – “Wild arsed theories” or WAT – just for this purpose. These will be a pure speculation on my part, based on some things I see happing in the market.

Today lets start with the Android stuff.  With the release of Motorola Milestone in Europe, two questions have been buggering me.

1. Why there’s no Google’s  free turn-by-turn navigation app in a European version of Droid (Motorola Milestone).

2. What’s happening with the frigging Android OS upgrades? First we get Android 1.6 Donut upgrade. Then, in a few weeks, a phone running Android 2.0/Eclair comes out. However none of the other Android handsets, coming out this year, mention anything about Android 2.0.  All of them, apparently, are still running Android 1.6. Even uber high end Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, announced today, but due only in Q1 2010.

Well, I think, I may have answers to both of these questions. Let’s start with the first today, and get to second tomorrow.

Why there is no free turn-by-turn navigation in Motorola Milestone? And it ain’t comig anytime soon

It all comes down to the mapping data. Take a look at these screenshots:

Google Maps data ownership

See the difference? The copyright notice for the area around Kansas City says that map data is owned by Google. The same notice for London says that map data is owned by Tele Atlas.

And it’s the same all over the world. Play a bit with Google maps yourself. What you will see is that the map data anywhere in the United States is owned by Google. Even in remote places like Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Just cross the border, to Canada or Mexico, and another company name springs up in the map data ownership field.  TeleAtlas, INEGO, Europa Technologies, etc;

What this tells us is, that, for now, Google has collected enough of it’s own mapping  data only for the United States. And since they own the data there, they are free to use it however they like. Including provision of a free turn-by-turn navigation services, that screws the business model for paid nav service and gadget providers like Garmin and TomTom.

But all the mapping data for Western Europe in Google maps, is provided by TeleAtlas, owned by Tom Tom. Do you think Tom Tom is eager to provide Google with the data that could destroy their paid service and the main income source? I am pretty sure, that somewhere in a contract between Tele Atlas and Google, there is a clause, explicitly forbidding Google to offer tbt navigation, using Tele Atlas data.

So now what? Tough luck for us, Europeans? No free navigation from Google here?

Yes. For now.

But don’t think Google is sitting still and won’t be able to collect all that European map data for itself. Those Google Street View  cars are not driving around just for fun.

We know that Google is able to collect it’s own mapping data and they are heavily investing in it. They already did so in the U.S, after all. And as soon as Google has enough of it for Western Europe, the navigation services will come here too.

Thank’s to OScarB and vowe for pointing me in the right derection

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Mike in HOU

    Another possibility is that Google is trying to keep a low profile after MSFT's flogging at the hands of Opera. If you're a big player, It has become forbidden to give away a product if there is a competing product in the EU, e.g. Tom Tom.

  • Mike in HOU

    Another possibility is that Google is trying to keep a low profile after MSFT's flogging at the hands of Opera. If you're a big player, It has become forbidden to give away a product if there is a competing product in the EU, e.g. Tom Tom.