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  • Hype and Promise

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on January 27th, 2013 (All posts by )

    This week I walked by the always-mobbed Apple store on Michigan avenue where they had a big window display for the new iPad mini. I liked the expression on this woman’s face as she looked at her new iPhone.

    Down the street you can see the lonely Garmin store. Garmin, the GPS related company, has its only retail store in the world (per wikipedia, at least) on Michigan Avenue and I have been by it many times and it is sparsely populated, at best.

    GPS used to be a great hype story, with the possibilities seemingly endless, and companies poised to clean up with huge stock prices. Soon, however, GPS became a widely used tool, background almost, and the hype was forgotten. Garmin (GRMN on NASDAQ) initially was a darling of the stock market, a momentum stock, but which has since transformed itself into what appears to be a well-run and diversified company spread across the marine, flight, exercise, and auto areas. They have changed from a stock touting the limitless growth of GPS to a practical stock that explains their gross and operating margins for each segment clearly and also how they are using the free cash flow that they receive to pay investors a large and growing dividend – go here for a brief presentation for investors from their web site.

    It is interesting to see how our perception of a company or stock is based on our personal experience with the consumer devices. We see Apple at home or at work, and interact with it every day of our lives (if you are an “Apple” person). On the other hand, few of us think much about Garmin, but it is integrated into cars, exercise devices (one of the few stand alone devices that really seems to be growing), planes, boats, and many other areas. At one time it seemed that everyone would have a stand alone GPS devices, but then the “coolest” consumer application components were integrated into iPhones and Android phones and became commonplace in autos so it just became less exciting over time.

    Cross posted at LITGM


    6 Responses to “Hype and Promise”

    1. Bill Brandt Says:

      Wile i haven’t resumed flying I have been subscribing to some aviation magazines and one hing surprised me – when I left flying 20 years ago the avionics names were Collins (the best),King (good), Narco (basic – now the cockpits have left the “steam gauges” and become glass CRTs and one name stands out – Garmin.

      Still small compared with Apple but it surprised me. Now if Apple can keep the momentum going post Jobs – a big IF. Their stock took a tumble last week.

    2. David Foster Says:

      Bill…an instructor mentioned to me that when he teaches in new airplanes with large GPS displays, he has a devil of a time getting students to **keep their eyes outside the cockpit**, even on final approach.

      There is something about screens that draws the human eye almost irresistibly.

    3. Bill Brandt Says:

      David – Maybe its probably just the new (younger) pilot used to video games – the CRT revolution started first in airliners – I remember in 1986 I was on a Qantas flight from Auckland to Melbourne, the pilot actually invited me up to the cockpit of the 767.

      I was surprised – used to seeing 200 “steam gauges” the panel for pilot and FO had basically 2 CRTs – you would push buttons to get the “instruments” you wanted on the CRTs

      He had a minor engine glitch – send the data via satellite to the Qantas maintenance facility – a few minutes later gets the answer – a little printer with 1.5-2″ rolled paper – prints the answer –

      I was surprised given the certification process for aircraft (and I assume some lengthy process for avionics) that Garmin has so dominated – at least – general aviation avionics.

      And no more navigation by VOR – FAA placed transmitters around the country that broadcast beams in 360 radials – all point to point via GPS (probably thanks to Garmin)

    4. David Foster Says:

      The FAA does intend to maintain a basic framework of VORs for emergency use, ie if something happens to create a widespread GPS outage.

    5. Mike K Says:

      It’ about time for an EMP.. Sorry to always be pessimistic. My older partner in surgery used to say, “Show me an optimistic surgeon and I’ll show you a surgeon with a lot of complications.” I think the same thing applies to pilots.

      I bought a couple of Tom Toms a few years ago. Some friends from England visited a year or so later and they were expert in the use of the device. In fact, the wife took over the TomTom and navigated us all over California. When I was going to England a year or two later, I inquired about getting cards for the European area for the TomTom. It’s a European device but they would not provide cards to make the device usable there.

      I am used to marine navigation electronics in which cards are provided for different areas. I was infuriated by the reaction I got from TomTom, basically telling me to buy a new one for Europe. I didn’t and we did without although it would have been a great help in some areas, especially at night.

    6. Bill Brandt Says:

      Just think of how much technology depends on the GPS now. I think – even my parent’s new car – gets its speedometer and clock info from the GPS.

      An EMP would wipe that out (not to mention everything else with semiconductors)

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