Sunday, 4 April 2010

Garmin's City Navigator NT Licensing

I've just purchased my GPS mapping for my Canada trip - Garmin's City Navigator® North America NT on SD/MicroSD card. Although I'm happy with the mapping product and I'm sure it will be very useful on the road, I'm less happy with Garmin's restrictive licensing and usage arrangements.

My purchased copy of City Navigator N. America. (I was a good boy).

You can buy the Garmin City Navigator NT mapping via three different media delivery methods:
  • On a SD/MicroSD card;
  • On a DVD;
  • Via a download.
The trouble is, though, all three have somewhat irksome restrictions on their usage, so choosing the best media delivery method is not entirely straightforward. In fact, all have their drawbacks! The restrictions can be summarised in the following table:

Garmin City Navigator® NTSD/MicroSDDVDDownload
Can use on multiple GPS devicesYesNoNo
Can backup the mapping dataNoYesYes
Can use on a computerNoYesNo
Can purchase mapping updatesNoYesNo
What Garmin offers it's customers...

This left me with a particular dilemma when considering 'Plan B' modes while I'm on the road for my Canada tour. I could either purchase the SD/MicroSD card which I could use in a replacement GPS device (should mine malfunction) but I couldn't then safeguard the mapping data from a malfunctioning card -OR- I could purchase the DVD/download and safeguard the mapping data, but I couldn't then load the maps onto a replacement GPS device! Catch-22.

Now I know Garmin has got to protect it's products from piracy (googling will show you they still don't do a very good job, as it's pretty straightforward to download 'cracked' Garmin products, even the one I've just bought), but surely it should be possible for Garmin to address these restrictions so that legitimate users can get 'fair-use' from the product regardless of the media delivery type chosen?

Garmin City Navigator® NTAny Format
Can use on multiple GPS devicesYes
Can backup the mapping dataYes
Can use on a computerYes
Can purchase mapping updatesYes
What it's customers really want...

As is the case with most software, the restrictions can be circumvented, but the otherwise legitimate customer would be forced to break the licensing agreement, specifically: " agree not to reproduce, reverse complie, adapt, modify...". Whether the legitimate customer ignores that to 'safeguard' their investment and get a full lifetime of 'fair-use' from the product (that Garmin effectively denies with their current licensing arrangements) has to be left to that customer's conscience...

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