"MSN Direct opens up opportunities for Web sites in a variety of areas - real estate, travel, event planning and food service - to make it fast and simple for visitors to have access to turn-by-turn directions on their navigation device," said Joe Coco, product unit manager of the MSN Direct initiative at Microsoft.
“A number of MSN Direct partners, including Garmin and Alpine Electronics Inc., plan to ship or are already shipping GPS products that are compatible with the MSN Direct Send to GPS feature”, said Microsoft. Garmin offers MSN Direct with the nuvi 780 and nuvi 880, along with nuvi 5000, nuvi 750, nuvi 760, or nuvi 2x5 series devices with the optional MSN Direct receiver ($119 with one year free subscription).
This “Send to GPS” feature first requires the user to have a Windows Live ID and a compatible device associated with this Live account. Then the user has to indicate in which “region” (actually a metropolitan area) his device is located – MSN Direct “datacasting” uses a sub carrier of the FM radio band, therefore, in order to reduce the load on its network, it broadcasts local data for each metropolitan area it covers in North America. If the device is not in the chosen area it will not receive the location sent via the web.
Once this process is done the message will be queued: MSN Direct bandwidth is 10.5 to 11.5 Kilobytes per second and traffic information is given priority on the network. This means it can take several minutes - if not more - to receive it on a PND, especially if this one is not connected to MSN Direct at the time when the message is sent. Additionally, Microsoft is imposing a daily quota of 20 locations per day per Windows Live ID so as not to overload the network.
With this API Microsoft is definitely broadening the use of MSN Direct for navigation devices. It will primarily offer PND manufacturers an opportunity to differentiate from the competition with dedicated, personalized content.
MSN Direct has an opportunity to succeed on the North American PND market because it can provide the downlink/push features of connected PNDs (traffic information, “send to”, gas price, etc) at a fraction of the cost of a “two-ways connected PND” with a GPRS modem and its related connection fee. The current economic downturn in the U.S. is also likely to push consumers towards low cost solutions than two-ways connected devices such as Dash Express.