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Magellan speaks …

Politically correct, that’s the best way to describe GPSr company Magellan‘s stance on its rival’s Opencaching.com service.

When Garmin first launched the website a month ago, Magellan Outdoor’s Justin Doucette told Cache Mania it did not have any plans to utilise APIs (Application Programming Interface or, for the non-geeks, rules that a software program can follow to access the resources of another provider), saying it viewed the service as a “direct competitor” to Groundspeak’s Geocaching.com.

“Magellan has a close and valued relationship with GC.com. We feel as though GC.com is the premier location for geocache listings and a central hub for communication, interaction, and support for the entire geocaching community.”

And while that’s still the case, the California-based firm has softened its viewpoint of late. Marketing manager Catherine Burt told It’s Not About The Numbers that Magellan was “excited about the added interest in geocaching” but “concerned about the benefit to the geocaching community in the long run”.

Likely pitfalls include confusion over multiple cache listings and increased rivalry among cachers, she says.

“There are many benefits to having a single repository for geocache listings. Specifically, the existence of multiple databases will likely lead to geocache duplication and additional efforts on behalf of the geocachers and hiders to maintain their status at difference sites.”

As for why OC.com was established, Burt believes “Garmin is now aware of the millions of dedicated geocachers and saw an opportunity” to grow its business.

Yet Magellan has no plans to offer its own listing service. “We enjoy our relationship with GC.com and feel that geocachers will want to continue to use the original, site where their caches and history are stored.”

As previously mentioned, using Garmin APIs are out but its spokeswoman points out that GPX files from OC.com are compatible with Magellan’s eXplorist range. “Just like [with] GC.com, Magellan devices are not exclusive to any single geocache list.”

However, “our relationship with Groundspeak is strong and will not be affected by OC.com”.

Rather than expecting a fall in Magellan GPSr sales as a result of the Garmin-backed site, Burt predicts “further growth” of her employer’s coffers.

That should be a positive for the long-time industry player.

Named in honour of the first man to circumnavigate the world, Magellan quickly became a market leader after it was founded in 1986. Within three years, it began selling the world’s first handheld commercial GPSr, and in 1997 was credited with bringing affordable GPS technology to the average consumer after it initiated a unit for under US$100. Since then, the company has also pioneered voice-operated navigational devices.

But it hasn’t all been rosy … In 2006, GPS Magazine wrote: “Four years ago, Magellan owned the consumer GPS market, commanding more than 50 per cent of market-share. Today that has dwindled to 19 per cent and falling.”

Last July, the same organisation ranked the company – which has traded as MiTAC Digital Corporation since being purchased by a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Mio Technology in December 2008 – fifth out of the 10 satellite navigation providers, though it’s believed to be second or third in handheld sales depending on the source. First place in both categories belongs to Garmin.

Whether the leaderboard will still look the same at the end of the financial year remains to be seen.

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