Fascinating article on Newsweek’s site about the paucity of data providers for online mapping:
At the center of this technology [mapping] explosion is Navteq and its chief rival, Netherlands-based Tele Atlas. They have a duopoly in mapping data, and license their maps to all the major device makers and Internet sites. (Many mapping firms buy data from both and blend their own combinations.) Navteq was founded in 1985 to build mapping kiosks for rental-car desks, but it changed gears to work solely on digital maps in the ’90s and went public last August after becoming profitable. Buoyed by excitement over GPS technology, its stock has gone up more than 60 percent since the IPO.
Navteq enjoyed unchallenged primacy on American streets until recently, when Tele Atlas crossed the ocean. It was also founded 20 years ago, the result of a Belgian student’s college project to create digital maps. Tele Atlas went public in 2000 on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and last year, it bought another mapping firm, New Hampshire-based GDT, to bolster its U.S. operation.