Information Week Digital Life Blog: Microsoft is reported to be looking to acquire Garmin, the navigation system company.
There are a few reasons. Let’s start with the most immediate and obvious: cars. Microsoft has a system called Sync, a $395 (around €280) option that’s going to be offered in Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys, starting with the 2008 Ford Focus.
The system uses Bluetooth and USB; does hands-free calling and voice-activated music selection; reads text messages aloud; can sync up with iPods, cell phones, and a variety of other devices; has steering wheel controls and a dashboard screen; and may, in later models, allow drivers to create spoken text messages and e-mails.
Garmin already has partnerships with both Microsoft and Ford, offering features such as updated gas prices, weather conditions and forecasts, and dynamic trip routing based on traffic and construction, stemming from a partnership with MSN.
The system offered in Fords includes Bluetooth capability and an MP3 player, reminiscent of Sync.
Despite a recent dip, Garmin’s also seen its stock more than double since the beginning of the year and recently increased annual earnings expectations above than the already higher-than-expected initial estimates. But mobile may be where Microsoft really sees the interest.
Last week, Nokia announced it was buying Navteq for $8.1 billion. InformationWeek’s Richard Martin wrote last week that the Navteq deal might be as much about location-based services in smartphones as it is about any of the more common uses of GPS navigation today.
Microsoft’s been working hard recently to get Windows Mobile onto as many phones as possible, and navigation technology could be important for the future of that strategy.