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Navicore launches UK GPS kit for Symbian

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Finnish smart-phone route-planning software developer Navicore set up shop in the UK this week, pledging to shake up the consumer GPS market.

Its £200 offering, which includes navigation software and street-level UK maps on a 256MB memory card, along with a "highly sensitive" Bluetooth-enabled SiRF GPS receiver, goes on sale on 1 June.

Navicore's code runs right off the bundled memory card. Only 128MB are taken up with maps and software, so there's plenty of space to add extra maps covering other European countries - coming this summer on a separate, as yet unpriced CD-ROM, or on individual memory cards for £100 a pop - or other data. The GPS receiver provides up to 15 hours' usage on a single charge, Navicore said.

The software runs on Symbian OS-based smart phones, with Series 60 and Series 80 user-interface support straight away and UIQ versions - for handsets like the Sony Ericsson 910i and the Motorola A1000 - coming soon after. The Series 80 version costs £250.

Navicore UK chief William Morgan claimed the package was the "first quality in-car GPS navigator at a tenth of the price". We'd beg to differ. Navicore's solution is certainly a lot less expensive than some of the higher-end fixed-installation in-car units, but Medion's PocketPC-based bundle has been available for some years now, as have rival offerings from Navman, Garmin, Mio and others. These are a hundred pounds or so more expensive than Navicore, but they include a PDA in the package.

Rival route-planning software developer ALK launched a version of its CoPilot last September, though it only runs on Windows Mobile-based smart phones. ALK launched at £220, also with a bundled Bluetooth-enabled GPS receiver, and a 128MB memory card. T-Mobile is bundling the package with its SDA and MDA Compact devices.

Still, there are far more Symbian-based smart phones being used today than there are handsets running the Microsoft OS, and that puts Navicore in a strong position to build market share quickly. Across Western Europe, GPS has become a key purchase criterion for PDAs, and has kept the handheld market buoyant when it has slumped in other geographies.

Bringing that functionality to smart phones is a more recent move but one, given the number of handsets out there already and the number that will be bought over the coming years, that has a much further consumer reach than the PDA-based segment.

Navicore's bundle will initially be made available through network operator's O2's retail chain, but Morgan said the company was in talks with all the other networks and major mass-market retailers to expose the product to a broader customer base. ®

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