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Navman charts rich deal with giant Sony

Global positioning specialist Navman has been hammering out deals with customers as diverse as United States watch-maker Timex and Chilean fleet monitoring companies. Now the Auckland company has struck a potentially lucrative licensing deal with Japanese electronics giant Sony.

Navman’s mapping software, which charts a user’s progress using GPS, will be available on Sony’s popular handheld computer, the Clie. Sony is selling its devices with the automobile industry in mind, hoping motorists will buy the Navman software, a GPS unit and cradle to turn the Clie into an in-car navigation device.

The deal covers Europe, with Navman picking up the business because US mapping software maker Rand McNally, which partners with Sony in the US, was unable to cater to Sony’s European needs.

Navman’s managing director for Europe, Prash Vadgama, said the deal had huge potential for the company as the Clie was a popular device and licensing revenue would grow as more computers were sold. He did not expect the use of devices such as the Clie for navigation would eat into Navman’s own hardware business. Navman itself was eyeing the cellphone market, with the ultimate aim of incorporating its technology into phones.

Navman’s European business could break the $100 million revenue mark this year, he said.