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Another Nuvifone delay: Is Garmin killing chances at smartphone success?

Garmin's long-anticipated, much-hyped entry into the smartphone game with the Nuvifone has been delayed - again - and it's unclear if yet another new smartphone by yet another company will be able to rise above the suddenly-crowded arena.Last summer, the company said that the device would be delayed until the first half of 2009, citing problems with the carriers.
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Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive on

Garmin's long-anticipated, much-hyped entry into the smartphone game with the Nuvifone has been delayed - again - and it's unclear if yet another new smartphone by yet another company will be able to rise above the suddenly-crowded arena.

Last summer, the company said that the device would be delayed until the first half of 2009, citing problems with the carriers. Now, it's pushing that release announcement to later this year, with still no firm date.

Here's the reality: Garmin is in need of a spark and bringing GPS to a smartphone probably seemed like a good move when the company first announced the device nearly a 18 months ago. But the landscape has changed significantly since then.

We're getting ready for version 3 of the iPhone later this year. RIM has been aggressive at tapping the consumer market with a wide variety of Blackberrys, including the new touch-screen Storm, as well as a number of pricing promotions. The first smartphone built on Google's mobile operating system - called Android - has been released and Motorola is expected to launch a lineup of Android devices in time for the holiday season. And even Palm, which announced a new smartphone called the Pre back in January at CES, is expected to launch soon.

So what does the company have to say about it? During the company's earnings call with analysts last week, company President and COO Cliff Pemble said:

Smart phones are really complicated devices and bringing one to market that's built totally from the ground up on a custom Linux platform is not an easy task. We certainly haven’t performed to our expectations, but we believe we have a very unique device and we still have a lot of interest in the device from carriers. So we're working hard right now to complete the certification and we believe we're getting close to the end.

It's promising that Pemble sees a lot of interest "from the carriers" but what can be done to interest among consumers or business customers who already have so many devices to choose from? At one point, GPS was probably a premium feature - but there are already devices with built-in GPS but location services don't always need it. Case in point: Google Maps on my Blackberry uses triangulation - the process of determining a general vicinity by recognizing the closest three cell phone towers - to give me locations of nearby businesses.

Location services that are "good enough" aren't the best solution out there - but GPS is no longer one of those services that might help a smartphone rise above the noise. Worse yet, when every announcement about a product is related to a delay, it's hard to keep the excitement and buzz alive.

Also see: Garmin: Nuvifone on track for 2009 launch, but economy hurts outlook Garmin and Asus to show off nuvifones; Will anyone buy them?

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