It’s easy to get lost following all the turns in direction and developments in the satellite navigation field this year.

The sector has been rapidly commoditised by the inclusion of satnav in automotive dashboards and GPS-enabled mobile phones.

Google’s introduction of its free Navigation application for Android phones in October has also disrupted the sector – it makes TomTom’s $100 turn-by-turn app for the iPhone look decidedly expensive. Read more

Two years ago, navigation devices of the kind that you find mounted on car dashboards were one of the hot gifts of the holiday season and the stocks of Garmin and TomTom were riding high.

Not any more. Wednesday brought a double-whammy that knocked 21 per cent off shares in TomTom and 16 per cent off Garmin. Of the two pieces of news, it was the second that sounded the more ominous.

First was a warning from TomTom that prices for these devices, which not so long ago commanded a hefty premium, are likely to continue to slide. They dropped 27 per cent in the company’s latest quarter to an average of under 100 euros, and that erosion shows no sign of slowing. Read more

The FT’s Lex column looks at the dilutive stock sale that will see the founders of Dutch navigation device maker TomTom give up their majority stake in the company to head off a debt cruch. Its conclusion:

Painful, but a price worth paying to put the focus back on growth, and away from a tattered balance sheet.

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  • Skype is expanding its push into mobile with the release of its iPhone application. The move is unlikely to threaten major telecom carriers, but may better position Skype for an eventual sale from parent company eBay.
  • Even as TV and print advertising shrunk during the recession, internet advertising remained strong in 2008, topping $23bn. Search remained the dominant form of online advertising, but spending on video, while still a small piece of the pie, more than doubled to $734m.

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The sight of Microsoft apparently prevailing in patent litigation against a Linux-based software application is bound to send a frisson of fear and loathing through the open source world.

So it was today, with news that a case brought last month against TomTom had been resolved. The Dutch-based navigation maker has agreed to make payments to Microsoft to end a claim that it breached eight patents, while also over the next two years removing functionality from its products related to two of the patents.

TomTom’s devices run on Linux, so the Microsoft lawsuit was seen as a deliberate, if sideways, attack on the open source operating system. Read more