There is a discussion going on at the It’s Not About The Numbers blog concerning whether or not Garmin is going to launch a geocaching website. The author of that blog points out some interesting indicators but I don’t agree with the author’s conclusion.
There is only a little evidence thus far. There is a WHOIS entry that lists ns.garmin.com as the name server. There could be lots of reasons for this. It is suspicious though. There are a few other indicators mentioned in the blog.
I don’t think I’d call an open caching website an epic fail. What does Garmin want to do? They want to sell more devices. They tricked me into upgrading to a 62s. I wanted to try out the chirp and there doesn’t seem to be a firmware upgrade coming for the Colorado. The ability to gain access to features is what drives upgrades.
What about all those people who use Magellans or Delormes? Imagine a website that is open and allows these folks to use it. Garmin could release all kinds of features on the site that competing units can’t use. Even iPhone’s and Blackberries. Can Garmin use the site to make a compelling case for using a Garmin GPS for geocaching? That could lead to an upgrade stream.
One of the comments over at INATN is the fact that geocaching.com runs on volunteer reviews. I don’t think Garmin would have any trouble recruiting volunteers. Just give the reviewer a free Garmin as a thank you for being a reviewer. Even if they don’t do that how many people do you think would sign up in the hopes that they would? Quantity does not equal quality but it is a great place to start.
Competing standards could lead to what happened between Microsoft and Apple before web browsers arrived. The browser is an open standard that removes the platform from the equation (sort of). A Garmin based opencaching.com site could move to add features only supported on Garmins while geocaching.com could introduce features for competing brands. Will we have to chose? Is this Beta vs VHS? Sony vowed never to lose a specification war again. Do you know how they do it? Content. Sony owns the content that is available on their platform. Is it blu-ray vs HD disks? Sony won that war. This could get interesting.
Something Garmin could do which gc.com could not is add a link or functionality into Mapsource. Every Garmin GPSr comes with Mapsource. They could capture users before they are ever aware of gc.com.
We just created a coin for our night caching store and in order to get a tracking number we have to pay geocaching.com $1.50 per coin. I sure would like an open alternative to that. Competition might put pressure on GC.com to lower their price.
The restrictions on data over at GC.com are epic. Just about the only thing you are allowed to republish is a GC number. Openness is what is required. In my opinion the best way for Groundspeak to mitigate this is to become more open. I don’t want to switch but there are things I’d like to do with my data. I’ll be inclined to go where that is possible.
We live in interesting times.