Thursday, August 09, 2007

Is A Garmin Without GPS Just An Ordinary Device?

Obviously Garmin is doing something right as their stock is up roughly 50 points in the past three months. However their most recent product announcement in the personal fitness category has me a bit baffled.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Garmin fan and own two of their products - the Garmin Nuvi 370 GPS Personal Navigator and the Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Personal Training Device with heart rate monitor (HRM). I use the Forerunner all the time when I run and did a detailed six-part review of the Garmin Forerunner 205, when it was first introduced over a year ago.

With that said, I've got to wonder why Garmin is extending the successful Forerunner product line by adding a new product that doesn't use GPS! They announced the Garmin Forerunner 50 slim sports watch, which substitutes GPS for a motion-activated foot pod sensor to measure distance. I'm not a big fan of foot pods. Some people swear by them but I've always found them to be less than accurate compared to GPS, but that's just me.

I'm guessing they are trying to tackle a bigger addressable market by offering a more diverse product line to take on Polar and Nike with their various fitness watches and the Nike+ iPod system, which turns a nano into a training device.

At $199 for a fully decked out system with HRM, the Forerunner 50 ain't cheap. So will the Garmin brand, product design and PC/web integration be enough to drive consumer sales for the Forerunner 50 when Garmin's differentiator has always been GPS?

It probably will have minimal impact on the company's overall business, but I have a hard time believing the Forerunner 50 will be a success. Now if they added a GPS chip to the slim form factor then they'd definitely have a winner....

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