Market booms for navigation devices

Competition is becoming fierce in the personal navigation market as more players ― both domestic and foreign ― join in.
According to industry figures, the market has swelled from 200,000 units in 2003 to 700,000 units last year, and it is on the verge of exceeding 1 million units this year.
Taiwan’s Mitac, which stands at the top of the global market, sells more than 800,000 units a year. This month, the firm is establishing a branch in Seoul. Last year, Mitac sold “Mio”― a portable GPS (global postioning system) navigation system ― through LG International. The device was available mainly through TV home shopping, but sold 150,000 units. This year, Mitac is aiming to sell 250,000 units in Korea alone. The firm established a research and development center and service center early this year. It plans to launch a 4.2-inch digital multimedia broadcasting navigation device this month. The tentative price is 549,000 won ($575 ).
Industry analysts expect Mitac’s local presence to heat up the navigation market, since domestic makers are also aggressively making navigation devices, mainly on the lower end, that have both navigator and digital multimedia broadcasting functions.
Hyundai Autonet, the “big brother” in the industry, released the “Pontus HNA620” early this year. The latest version, released in April, is 3.5-inches and serves as a GPS navigator and a digital multimedia broadcasting terminal. It costs 399,000 won.
Carpoint released a 4.2-inch DMB plus navigator “Xroad Korea” for the local market in May. Carpoint will focus on exports this year, and expand its exporting to 60 countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Britain.
“Last year, we exported 25 billion won’s worth of devices, which was half of our total sales, but this year, competition in the domestic market is very fierce so we plan to export 60 percent of our products,” said Kim Jeong-hoon of Carpoint. The firm’s sales goal this year is 100 billion won.
Thinkware System Corp. will begin selling its DMB/navigator “iNabi Smart” this month. The device has a 4-inch LCD monitor and will run about 500,000 won.
LG Electronics and SK Corp. have developed their own products. Samsung Electronics will only develop export products and not enter domestic competition.
“Korea is the most advanced market for digital convergence and the growth rate of the personal navigation market is higher in Korea than in other countries, which is what makes the market very attractive,” a spokesman for Mitac said.

by Kim Tae-jin, Wohn Dong-hee for JoongAng Daily

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