Consumer products 2012
Gary Burrell and Dr. Min H. Kao co-founded Garmin in 1989, with the intent of developing navigation devices incorporating global positioning system (GPS) receivers for the consumer market. After going public in 2000 on the NASDAQ Stock Market, Garmin is now the world leader of portable navigation devices, having sold over 100 million products to motorists, pilots, boaters, runners, cyclists, golfers, hikers, hunters, and geocachers.
Burrell spent the bulk of his career developing avionics equipment for King Radio. He designed and developed the first successful dual navigation/communication device for the general aviation market. Kao, an electrical engineer, worked for defence contractors Teledyne and Magnavox until joining Allied in 1983 where he led the team that developed the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved GPS navigation system.
Trimble Navigation already had portable GPS devices on the market when Garmin launched, but instead of professional and industrial GPS applications, Garmin sought to develop their use for consumers such as drivers, pilots and hikers.
As technology advanced, the integrated circuits and radio components shrunk, and Garmin capitalised on this trend by making the devices more compact. It also simplified the user interface while simultaneously diversifying its product range to address specific users.
For instance with eTrex, a series of cell phone sized waterproof portable navigation devices launched in the late 1990s, which became popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Garmin also created the Approach series of devices for golfers and the Astro GPS-enabled dog tracking system.
Garmin employs 9,700 people worldwide and its 2011 revenue was US$2.76 billion. By late 2008, Garmin became the automotive worldwide leader with about 37 percent market share for portable navigation devices. GPS-based location features have become an integral part of smart phones and automotive portable navigation device sales have started to decline. But without pioneering advances by Garmin, these devices would not have been able to include GPS technology.
Gary Burrell retired from Garmin in 2002 but remains Chairman Emeritus of the company. Dr. Min H. Kao currently is Chairman and CEO.