Garmin and TomTom cling to profits, hope

As everyone knows, Garmin and TomTom have their backs against the ropes in a fight to remain relevant in an age of free GPS turn-by-turn navigation on smartphones (thanks Google and Nokia). While dedicated personal navigators are almost always superior to their converged competition, the gap has certainly narrowed such that it's become difficult to justify another device when an increasing number of people already carry a fine navigation device in their pockets. But that's just gut instinct talking, where's the hard evidence? Certainly not speculative stock prices. A good place to start is in forward-looking financial statements like the one Garmin, the leading navigation device maker in the US, just issued. Gamin says that it expects competition to cause prices to decline by about 10% in the personal navigation device (PND) industry putting pressure on margins, and thus profits, in 2010. It also sees flat or slightly declining revenue over the same period. Fortunately for Garmin, it has a diversified product offering that includes the Nuvifone. However, Garmin admits to being disappointed by sales of the handset that "won" our Editor's Choice award for Worst Gadget of the Year.

Things aren't all doom and gloom, though. Garmin has a pair of Nuvifones in the chute including the Android-powered A50. And its Q4 results of $1.43 per share easily beat analyst expectations of 95 cents a share. Even TomTom surprised many last week with a 1% increase in Q4 revenue and net profit of €75 million compared to a €989 million loss a year ago. So there's some hope left for the dedicated PND market... but not much.