SAN FRANCISCO- Google Inc is adding Garmin Ltd and TomTom to its growing list of rivals as the Internet search giant weaves technology for driving directions into new versions of its smartphone software.
Google said its new Google Maps Navigation product will provide real-time, turn-by-turn directions directly within cell phones that are based on the new version of its Android software.
The navigation product, which features speech recognition and a visual display that incorporates Google’s online archive of street photographs, marks the latest step by Google to challenge Apple Inc’s iPhone and Microsoft Corp’s Windows Mobile software with its Android smartphone software.
It also represents a direct competitive threat to companies like Garmin and TomTom which sell specialized hardware navigation devices. TomTom also makes a software navigation app for the iPhone that sells for $99.99 in the U.S.
The new navigation service will work with Google’s forthcoming Android 2.0 software, the next version of the smartphone operating system developed by Google. The company announced development tools for Android 2.0 on Tuesday, but a spokeswoman said specific details about when Android 2.0 will be available should be directed to phone-makers and wireless carriers.
Google said the product, which will initially be limited to driving directions in the U.S., will be free for consumers.
Executives said the company was not currently serving ads on the navigation product, though they said Google is constantly looking at innovative ways to advertise in Google maps.
Google Engineering Vice President Vic Gundotra said the company hoped to eventually make versions of the navigation product for non-Android smartphones, but noted that the software has “stringent” hardware requirements.