GPS maker Garmin buys software company Navigon

Garmin, a leader in GPS device manufacturing, has just purchased a navigation software specialist called Navigon.

Navigon is one of the major companies that makes maps and software used in all sorts of products ranging from built-in car navigation devices to standalone GPS units, as well as mobile GPS apps.

For example, Navigon is the name behind one of the most popular navigation apps on the iPhone and Android. It is this presence in the mobile space that most likely was the biggest attracting factor for Garmin.

Garmin has tried to make inroads in the smartphone sector – it even released its own branded phone called the Garminphone – but much of what it’s done hasn’t really stuck.

The market for traditional GPS devices has really shrunk as more people begin using their phone as their main navigation unit. However, built-in in-car GPS products remain a popular feature for new vehicles, and Navigon also has a strong presence there.

And of course, there is always room for new advancements in this space.

We met with Navigon earlier this year at CTIA, the annual mobile trade show, and its big new project was indoor navigation technology. That is, providing maps and positioning services for users while they’re in a mall, museum, department store, etc.

Whether or not Garmin has any interest in this space is unclear, but it clearly is getting all this technology as part of the acquisition.