Microsoft and Garmin Aim To Hit the SPOT

At the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft announced that its Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) group has released its MSN Direct navigation services.

In addition, GPS device purveyor Garmin said it will offer the new service for select versions of its products, enabling users to receive dynamic local information, such as weather conditions and traffic updates.

The MSN Direct service is delivered via Microsoft's DirectBand Network, which the company describes as a cost-effective and power-efficient system for wide-area wireless data delivery covering more than 70 percent of the U.S. population. The network transmits content every two minutes to enable consumers to receive current and relevant information while on the go.

MSN Direct provides traffic reports, gas prices and other location-related information to GPS devices through an FM signal that is available in 100 of the largest cities across the country, according to Microsoft statements. Initial services include weather and traffic conditions, gas prices and movie times.

Garmin's nüvi 680 with MSN Direct and the Street Pilot c580 with MSN Direct will be released in the coming months, and cost $999 and $799, respectively. Both products come with a one-year subscription to MSN Direct.

The nüvi 680 with MSN Direct features voice-prompted, turn-by-turn GPS navigation, Bluetooth wireless technology for hands-free calling, travel guide books, a language translator, MP3 player, audio book player, currency and measurement converter, world clock, and digital photo organizer. The StreetPilot c580 features Bluetooth wireless capabilities with hands-free calling, an integrated traffic receiver and an MP3 player.

The SPOT group also announced plans to work with future versions of Microsoft Streets & Trips and Pharos Science & Applications Inc. to offer MSN Direct Navigation Services to SPOT devices. Furthermore, the SPOT group is working with Centrality Communications to integrate MSN Direct with two of its GPS reference designs, one built around Centrality's Atlas-III processor and a second one for the higher-end multimedia Titan processor.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.