Garmin shows off their new Nuviphone — a surprise product clearly targeted at the iPhone set. The product is due to ship this summer.

Seems like a shrewd move by Garmin. Garmin owns the small GPS market, and their Nuvi line is wonderfully executed and designed. But with GPS coming to more and more cell phones Garmin had to do something. Instead of running away or ignoring an encroaching reality, they ran head on into the smartphone space. To me this signals great management and leadership at Garmin.

Technically it has a few things the iPhone doesn’t have (yet). True GPS, 3G, and geotagging of photos taken with the camera. It also has Garmin’s million points of interest database built in which is great for finding local businesses, phone numbers, and addresses.

No details on size, weight, battery life, or price. And who knows how well the web browser works or how well the different pieces are integrated into the overall flow and experience. There are so many intangibles that it’s impossible to know if it’s good or bad before trying it, but from what little I see I like what I see.

Aside from Apple, Garmin is the only company I’ve seen that understands UI design for small devices. The Nuvi is dead simple to use. If they can translate their GPS UI chops into a phone UI, they may be on to something big. Someone is going to make a product that is considered the official alternative to the iPhone, and Garmin is well positioned to claim that title.

Good competition is a good thing.

RELATED: My review of the Nuvi 350 (the most commented on SvN post ever with 812 comments).