By Carl Howe
Digitimes notes that for the first time, GPS makers Garmin (GRMN) and TomTom will both ship over 10 million personal navigation devices this year. That puts total production this year for those two manufacturers at around 22 million units. To put that in perspective, that's about half of the 55 million iPod music players we expect Apple (AAPL) to sell in calendar 2007. That's huge.
One comment about GPS units: just like in music players and Web sites, there is a lot of variation in how usable different brands are. If you're considering buying one, find a store where you can actually play with a real, operational unit. Try entering addresses and routes and listening to the output. And finally, ask the sales rep, or better yet, take a couple units outside, and see how long they take to sync up to your location. You'll quickly find that some units will suit you better than others -- and some will have you scratching your head in frustration trying to figure out how to use them. The market will eliminate the worst units in a few years, but meanwhile you don't want to be stuck with one.
UPDATE: There was a lot of volatility in GPS stocks today, specifically with Garmin, due to a Banc of America analyst stating that NPD reported Garmin's market share had dropped to 29% in November from 47% a month earlier. Yet, NPD itself wasn't able to confirm those figures, and other analysts have noted that the data cited excluded some large retailers of Garmin products. However, if we ignore the market share squabbling, the most important note of the story is in the third paragraph:
Analysts said overall sales of the devices were up about sevenfold from a year ago.
It's hard to go wrong with an industry growing 700% a year.
Disclosure: Author has a long position in Garmin at the time of writing.