Not So Fast! GPS Maker Harman Says Apple Is More Partner Than Rival
June 14, 2012

Not So Fast! GPS Maker Harman Says Apple Is More Partner Than Rival

Michael Harper for

For as much as Tim Cook talked about doing “great things” with their products and the apps which run on them, Apple sure does have a tendency to squash other products and services underfoot. Take, for instance, text messaging. Or pocket cameras. Or GPS units.

Sure, Apple isn´t solely responsible for slowly rendering these technologies obsolete. RIM used BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) long before Apple introduced iMessage, and as technology has expanded, the need for pocket cameras has diminished as users are more likely to carry only one device in their pockets. If that one device happens to take pictures just as well as single-use cameras, so be it.

But when Apple announced that millions of their iPhone users will be able take advantage of free traffic reports and turn-by-turn navigation, GPS companies shook in their seats.

Earlier this week, Reuters reported shares of Harman have dropped as much as 10% after Apple´s big Keynote on Monday. Now, Harman is going on the defensive, saying their products will not suffer under Apple´s mighty hand.

"A car has a seven-year life cycle while a phone lasts for 14 months or 18 months, so no car would integrate a complete phone-based application," said Chief Executive Dinesh Paliwal, according to Reuters.

Paliwal made a point to mention his company caters to luxury cars which will always feature the latest in “infotainment” systems. These systems can even be integrated with Apple´s latest and greatest, rather than be nullified by the iconic smartphone. Harman even plans to make sure their systems can work together with Siri and Apple´s new Maps app, but they´ll need some time to ensure the two technologies can play nice and not interrupt any car safety or engine software. Paliwal mentioned his company has been working with Apple for the past two years and even plans to play an integral part in “Eyes Free,” a service Apple announced on Monday which will deeply integrate Siri into existing car systems from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and others. In fact, Harman is already hard at work building the first factory-installed system for the BMW AG to work with Siri´s Eyes Free functionality.

While his company is currently working with Apple, Paliwal told Reuters he wasn´t playing favorites just yet, saying Harman systems will also work with Google´s Android and RIM´s nearly defunct BlackBerry devices.

Not everyone feels Apple´s move into this industry will be damning. According to the Reuters report, IHS iSuppli says the auto infotainment industry stands to surge to $33.5 billion this year as more car buyers come to expect such systems to be built into their autos.

Apple´s Maps is also a departure from their dependence on Google´s mapping database as they move all of the back-end heavy lifting onto their own servers. Not every GPS company is feeling left out in the cold, however. TomTom announced after Monday´s announcement that they´ll be working with Apple to provide some of the mapping data to all iOS users. While shares of Harman and other GPS makers (such as Garmin) fell early this week, shares of TomTom began to climb to the tune of 14%. Apple´s iOS 6 and newest breed of smartphone are slated to be released this fall.