updated 02:55 pm EDT, Thu April 29, 2010
TomTom to use WebKit UI for outside apps
TomTom chief Harold Goddijn in a presentation said his company would create an app store for its GPS units. The company lead explained on Thursday that the new WebKit-based interface on the Go Live 1000 and future navigators would let developers roll out apps well-suited to driving. Augmented reality was floated as a possibility, although Goddijn expected it would only be a minor feature; it would require a camera to work properly.
He acknowledged to Pocket-lint that apps aren't as important as they are on smartphones, as driving makes it impractical to use the same breadth of apps. However, it would offer more flexibility and is planned to eventually spread across much of TomTom's line.
Goddijn wouldn't pledge the company to a timeframe for the app store, but unofficial discussion at the presentation had it launching before the end of the year.
The plans would be a hedge against a slew of free or low-cost GPS options on smartphones that potentially undermine TomTom's core business of dedicated GPS units. Google Maps Navigation for Android and Nokia's Ovi Maps both provide free, unlimited turn-by-turn GPS as long as they have active Internet connections, and in some cases can work offline when the user roams or goes out of coverage. The Garminfone is built around the concept.
App use was spurred on largely by the iPhone, which doesn't yet have a built-in, free driving navigation app but does have low-cost offline GPS apps. Apple is relatively late to navigation and has been hampered by a lack of multitasking, but in iPhone 4.0 will have hooks to keep navigation active even when other apps need to interrupt, putting it in much closer competition with TomTom.