MSN Direct: the future of connected PNDs in the US?



Garmin Nuvi 780
Garmin Nuvi 780
Garmin is introducing next week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas a new range of personal navigation devices (PNDs) and particularly the high end Nuvi 780 (due first Quarter 2008 at $857), Nuvi 880 (due second Quarter 2008 at $1071) and Nuvi 5000 (to be available in February at $857). Part of this announcement is the second generation of MSN Direct powering the Nuvi 780 and 880 and optional on the Nuvi 5000.

MSN Direct is a service which broadcasts information to a variety of electronic devices using a subcarrier channel on the FM radio band. Until its use by Garmin last year this technology did not show a great uptake – the only enabled-products being a few watches, two weather stations and a coffee maker.

Garmin first used MSN Direct with the Nuvi 680 and StreetPilot c580 (launched in the second quarter of 2007) providing traffic, gas prices, weather and movie times. With this new version of MSN Direct Microsoft is adding some new compelling features to the Garmin devices. The most interesting is the “Send to GPS” capability. Basically the user will be allowed to plan trips and look up destinations via Windows Live Local from its computer and then wirelessly send locations to its Nuvi.

Garmin Nuvi 880
Garmin Nuvi 880
In addition there is a new channel that sends special notices on festivals, concerts, and sporting events in the area the user is driving, and allows navigating to them. There is also a news and stock information channel but this is not related to the location or the driving experience. Among the previously existing four channels: traffic, weather, movie and gas prices, there are also some minor enhancements. Obviously Traffic information is gradually improving in terms of coverage with the addition of new cities by Navteq Traffic (Microsoft and Navteq have a multi years agreement for traffic information – read more here 433); the number of gas stations monitored also improved from 70,000 to 100,000 and the movie information channel now includes ratings, genre and actors’ names.

Three months of free MSN Direct service is included with the purchase of the Nuvi 780 and 880. The receiver as a standalone (for the Nuvi 5000) cost $125. Owners can re-subscribe for $49.95 a year, or a one-time charge of $129.95.

Dash Send2Car
Dash Send2Car
"One-way" versus "two-ways" connectivity
With this offer Garmin and Microsoft are building an interesting compromise between unconnected devices and “two-ways” connected PNDs such as Dash Express. A large number of services that require connectivity do not require an uplink connection, as an example the “send to car” option which is promoted by Dash is now available with these Garmin devices. Moving forward there are good reasons to think advertising could bear some or all of the cost of the Microsoft subscription. Garmin is already actively testing this business model with Navteq Traffic data on its mobile phone and Smartphone solution (free to the user and sponsored by Mobil gas stations).

Avis Where2
The rental company Avis which already used Garmin products for its Where2 rental PND will continue this partnership using the Nuvi 780 moving forward. “We’re proud to introduce a new version and team up with MSN Direct to provide customers with up-to-the minute information on stock prices, news and other critical information that business travelers can utilize to maximize the productivity of their time away from home,” said Michael Caron, vice president of product and program development for Avis Budget Group, parent company of Avis.

Continued...

Friday, January 4th 2008


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