Garmin is offering $3.3 billion for mapping data provider Tele Atlas. This outbids rival GPS manufacturer Tomtom by 15%. Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ are the two largest mapping data providers. NAVTEQ is in the process of being acquired by Nokia for $8.1 billion. NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas supply the data for the online mapping portals such Google, Mapquest, and Live.
Both Tomtom and Nokia have announced intentions to continue selling mapping data, but this would have left Garmin dependent on a competitor — not a good place to be. Tomtom is much smaller than Garmin so it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to hold onto Tele Atlas
This leaves the mapping industry in an interesting place. It was simple when all of the data providers were independent. End consumer mapping providers (Microsoft, Google, Nokia, Tomtom, Garmin) do not want to have to worry about taking on this expensive task (as the AP article points out Tele Atlas operates at a loss).
Microsoft and Google do not want to take on the task of collecting street data (they both prefer to license street data; they prefer to collect more immersive imagery) and have stated that they hope to remain partners. As they are not competitors with Nokia or Tomtom or Garmin this may not ever be a problem for now, but I am positive that this turn of events creates an opportunity for an independent mapping company. Geodata collection companies like Earthmine, Everyscape, and ImmersiveMedia (none of whom collect street data and instead focus on rich imagery and 3D data) must be loving this — their data and technology is becoming more valuable all the time.