Garmin-Asus to part ways in 2011

update Partnership between navigational device maker and computer manufacturer will cease next January even while rival TomTom is cozying up with phonemaker HTC, according to reports.

update Asustek Computer and Garmin will not be renewing their dual-branding partnership to sell location-based service (LBS) smartphones when their contract terminates in January 2011, according to reports. In other news, navigation services vendor TomTom is reported to be working with HTC to provide "location-rich" map services.

According to a Forbes report Tuesday, Asus Chairman Jonney Shih has confirmed the Garmin-Asus separation. Shih noted that the company, which already makes desktops, laptops, netbooks and tablets, wants to include handsets in its personal cloud computing vision.

Digitimes also reported that sources from Garmin-Asus revealed, starting January 2011, the computer maker will return to its own Asus-branded handset business, while Garmin will be free to partner with other handset makers to distribute its navigation solutions. However, both companies will still collaborate on developing navigational software, said the sources.

In an e-mail response to ZDNet Asia, Garmin-Asus' Singapore representative said service and support for handsets sold under the partnership will continue to be provided by Asus Singapore.

The partnership, announced in February 2009, saw both companies collaborate to distribute LBS-centric handsets under the Garmin-Asus brand. Over that period, the duo jointly released six handsets, including the Nuvifone G60 and M20 and, more recently, the Garmin-Asus A10 for the Indian market.

In September, Garmin CFO Kevin Rauckman told Reuters the co-branded smartphones had managed just US$27 million in revenue during the second quarter, compared with Apple's iPhones which snagged US$5.33 billion in the same period.

Asus also told ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET Asia early this month that Garmin-Asus had no plans to launch a Windows Phone 7 device for 2010, despite being named one of the partners for the new Microsoft mobile OS earlier this year.

While Garmin and Asustek are set on separating, rival navigation services vendor TomTom is reported to be working with HTC to offer quicker and more accurate maps and directions on HTC handsets.

According to ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET, HTC Locations, the Taiwan company's new mapping and navigation service, will come preloaded with the Amsterdam-based GPS maker's "location-rich" maps. The service will appear first on the Android-based HTC Desire and Desire Z smartphones for Europe and Asia. However, while the maps are free, users who require turn-by-turn directions still need to purchase this from HTC.

The TomTom-HTC partnership will be competing with Google Maps, which includes voice navigation for Android phone users based in the United States, Canada and some European countries.

Finnish phone manufacturer Nokia also has its own mobile maps with turn-by-turn voice-guided directions, which it has released for free on some of its phone models.

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