Struggling TomTom looking for a new direction

Dutch satellite navigation outfit TomTom is starting to discover that people aren't willing to pay for stuff they can easily get for free.

The satnav pioneer seems to have rested on its laurels for too long, and has quickly been overtaken by the likes of Google and Nokia - both of whom offer perfectly adequate turn-by-turn solutions for nothing.

TomTom has long been regarded as the de facto standard in its field but cheaper and free solutions have been chasing the company relentlessly, and in some cases have even overtaken it.

The prevalence of free navigation software has taken a huge chunk out of the company's bottom line, with fourth-quarter profits last year dropping by nearly 30 per cent to €52 million.

And it's no surprise that the company is taking a beating when it chooses to beat up its loyal customer base with outrageous prices for map updates.

We just tried to get the maps on our Go 90 up to date, but found that you can't upgrade existing maps without signing up for a year's worth of quarterly updates. So that's a minimum cost of over £70 just to get the current versions - and there's no way around the subscription tie-in as far as we can tell.

One well-known retailer is currently flogging the Garmin Nuvi 1200T for less than 70 quid, so we know where our money is going. And we won't be using this battered old TomTom to find our way to our local Halfords.

TomTom says it will be focusing on deals with car manufacturers in the future, which may work out better. After all, paying £70 to update the maps in a product that cost £20,000 or more is probably less painful than spending the same on updating a device you could replace for the same money.