Telenav buys OpenStreetMap GPS firm to drive out competition

Telenav maps its way to skobbler

Telenav has bought GPS navigation firm Skobbler for $23.8 million (£14.5 million, AU$27.3 million), a move that could make Telenav a major rival to current leaders in the mapping market.

The acquisition, which closed this week, set back Telenav $19.2 million (£11.7 million, AU$22 million) in cash and $4.6 million (£2.8 million, AU$5.3 million) in shares. It is part of an effort to make what Telenav calls the "Wikipedia of Maps."

Skobbler is well-known for its GPS navigation apps that use OpenStreetMap (OSM), a UK-based open source mapping project. Telenav is focusing big time on OSM, with the latter's founder, Steve Coast, joining the company last year.

Skobbler's employees, based in Germany and Romania, will now join Telenav's team.

Mapping the world

OSM has more than 1.5 million registered editors, constantly expanding the map coverage. Telenav's chairman and CEO, HP Jin, said that the company plans to push its Scout GPS service with OSM throughout the world, building upon previous success in the US with the HTML5 version. Skobbler expertise's will give it a major boost in this area.

Jin said: "The benefits of an open source model will provide an enormous opportunity to change the economic models of navigation and other location-based services."

The open source project has been hailed as an alternative to the market giant Google Maps. While it might be a while before it has a chance to aim for Google's crown, this latest acquisition is sure to spur adoption of OSM throughout the world.