There have been scattered rumors over the years that Apple would enter the automotive market (the iCar, perhaps?). Well that’s not gonna happen, but major technology companies — such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft — are beginning to battle for share of the in-vehicle navigation market, according to the Strategy Analytics research group (http://www.strategyanalytics.com).

This may spell trouble for traditional tier one navigation manufacturers, like Continental, Denso, Harman, as well as Garmin and TomTom. The recent Apple announcement regarding its automotive original equipment manufacturer partnerships and the expansion of Appleā€™s mapping efforts could significantly change the in-vehicle navigation market.

“Previously major technology companies largely wrote off automotive markets,” says John Canali, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics. “However, with a growing emphasis on creating a unified experience across all screens (PC, handset, TV, and in-dash display), the automotive screen is becoming an essential additional battle to win.”

Competing against these new players will be difficult for incumbent suppliers of navigation systems because the new players are so well capitalized and can devote far more to research and development. Incumbent players need to reevaluate their role to demonstrate their worth in the supply chain, while original equipment manufacturers must weigh what strategic alliances will provide the most benefit to consumers, says Richard Robinson, director of Automotive and Multimedia Communications at Strategy Analytics.

— Dennis Sellers