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TeleNav Enters PND Market With Internet Unit

11/10/2008 11:18:00 AM Eastern

Sunnyvale, Calif. — TeleNav, the behind-the scenes provider of navigation service to cellphones, is launching its first portable GPS device, which also is one of the first units with an Internet connection.

TeleNav’s personal navigation device (PND), called the Shotgun, will sell for $299 at www.telenav.com and may be offered to retailers in the future.

TeleNav enters the uncertain market for Internet-connected PNDs just as Dash Navigation decides to leave it.

The TeleNav Shotgun offers a live local Internet search powered by a TeleNav search engine and provides

TeleNav's Shotgun

Mapmaker TeleNav will offer its own PND for the first time with the Shotgun $299 Internet-connected PND.

real-time traffic and local gas-price listings. TeleNav also hopes to add weather updates in the near future. Internet service fees for the unit are $129 for the first year, $239 for two years or $11.99/month. The first three months of service are free.

With Dash’s exit, only TeleNav and Best Buy, under the Insignia brand, now sell an Internet-connected PND. Notably absent from the sector are leading PND brands, who claim that consumers are in no mood to spend money on service fees or high-end PNDs at the moment.

But TeleNav said it is not relying on mainstream consumers and is aiming instead its device at the business traveler who is a heavy PND user, said SalDhanani marketing senior director for the company.

The TeleNav Shotgun has a 4.3-inch screen and offers a pedestrian mode. It includes a GSM SIM card modem and offers text-to-speech pronunciation of street names. It also lets users plot several routes on a home PC and send them to the Shotgun.

The Shotgun will not offer “traffic probe” capability initially, but TeleNav may add the feature in the down the road. The “probe” feature, first introduced by Dash, lets a PND create traffic reports by monitoring the travel speeds of its users, thereby turning each unit into a “traffic probe.” It pools the data and then issues traffic updates to its users. The catch in this model is that many probes would need to be on the road to create reliable full-scale traffic reports. TeleNav has an advantage here, as it already has tens of thousands or more customers in the field that use its navigation on cellphones, and these could be switched over to probes as well, it said.

When asked to specify the number of TeleNav GPS cellphone users, the company declined to comment. But when asked if the number was more than 100,000, Dhanani said, “Yes.” TeleNav provides GPS service for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Alltel.

TeleNav is aware of the economic challenges for high-end PNDs or PNDs requiring monthly service charges, but it decided to enter the market because it found that 30 percent of consumers would consider buying both GPS cellphones and PNDs, according to In-Stat, said Dhanani.

TeleNav is also offering its connected-PND platform to other suppliers under a private-label agreement.

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