TomTom interrupted the epitaph writers last week with a spunky earnings call and a stunning customer presentation ushering in a new portable navigation device architecture and strategy modeled on the mobile phone market. The earnings report was significant both for the company’s ability to parry analyst skepticism and its self bestowal of the title: “fastest growing European telematics company.”
Skepticism surrounding TomTom’s ability to continue to grow and do so in a profitable manner was laid to rest by the Q1 2010 report which showed a 26% increase in revenue and a profit. The revenue gain came in spite of declining PND sales overall with TomTom claiming market share gains in Europe and North America.
The skepticism was expressed by multiple analysts on the earnings call repeatedly questioning the short- and long-term impact on TomTom of smartphone navigation. TomTom executives were quick to point out that 10M navigation application downloads, as reported by Nokia, did not directly translate into regular, daily use of smartphones for navigation.
TomTom’s broader survival strategy became clearer from a quick review of the earnings report which showed its non-consumer lines of business – a newly created categy – capturing 31% of revenue in Q1 ’10, up from 24% in ’09. The non-consumer segments consist of TomTom Work, licensing and the automotive business. (TomTom reports a 40% attach rate for its solution at Renault and claims 10% automotive market share as its solution is extended to additional Fiat and Renault models.)
TomTom Work showed 41% subscriber growth year-on-year to 104,000, well short of the 300,000 subscribers targeted for 2011, but enough to justify TomTom’s claim of being the “Fastest Growing Telematics Company in Europe.” The figure is even more important when one considers this is one of the highest gross margin businesses in TomTom’s portfolio, according to the company.
To round out the rosy picture TomTom pointed to the 700,000 Live Service enabled devices currently in use by consumers enabling a range of service and content transactions (including sharing of traffic and speed cam data), all of which are also exceptionally profitable to TomTom, again according to the company. With its newly announced webkit architecture strategy and adoption of the smartphone app store model (http://bit.ly/9q1jIV), TomTom hopes to build this user base.
An interesting note to this effort to build the TomTom user base is the fact that TomTom says it will no longer provide quarterly reports of device unit sales or average selling prices. The reason for this reticence is the company’s stated intention to alter its business model to build the base of users. Clearly TomTom is alluding to the potential for subsidizing sales of PNDs along the mobile phone model – a strategy long toyed with by the industry but never fully adopted.
TomTom did not specifically confirm its intention to subsidize PND sales. But this interpretation is supported by the somewhat ambiguous comments expressed in the earnings call and in the context of its plans to build its subscriber base.
Once TomTom has brought its open platform and app store model completely into the marketplace, expect subsidized devices, particularly among the new, simplified TomTom Ease line. The objective is to build a larger user base producing a wider range of shared location information which will become increasingly accurate (traffic) and useful (user evaluations) as the subscriber community grows.
TomTom’s aim is to achieve daily relevance from daily usage by a wide subscriber base. To further hedge its bets TomTom is adding new automotive relationships – such as Ford’s announced intention to use TomTom maps and content – and continuing its expansion into emerging markets (Ukraine, Morocco, Mexico, and India) where further PND growth is expected. The pieces are falling into place for Europe’s fastest growing telematics company, which has chased away the skeptics once again.
http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but 'Free' Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service
http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities
http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities