MSN Direct has announced some nice improvements for 2009, including Doppler radar, flight status information and faster downloads. All services are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2009.
"Smart Traffic" speed information (traffic flow as opposed to just traffic incidents) has been added to most cities with traffic coverage. There are now 94 cities with traffic coverage, up from 89 last fall.
There's a little confusion at this point as to which Garmin devices will be able to use these third-generation MSN Direct services, but I hope to have an answer on that shortly.
Here's another screen shot and the full news release:
Today at the 2009 International CES, Microsoft Corp. unveiled the latest enhancements to MSN Direct, an advanced location-based service for navigation devices that can help consumers reduce commute time and gas costs. MSN Direct now provides three times more traffic coverage and has also added flight status information and Doppler weather maps. Additional OEMs including Kenwood Corp., Mio Technology Corp. and Nextar Inc., along with automotive manufacturers BMW AG, Scion and Suzuki Motor Corp., are offering MSN Direct-enabled navigation devices and solutions.
Projected to be available by the first quarter of 2009, these new services will be offered on select MSN Direct-compatible navigation devices and will expand upon what is already an exceptional array of features offered by MSN Direct, including Smart Traffic, weather, gas prices, news headlines, stock quotes, local events, movie times and Send to GPS using Live Search Maps.
"As consumers grapple with challenging economic conditions, they're looking for products that can provide value, everyday use and practicality," said Joe Coco, product unit manager for MSN Direct. "Whether people are traveling across town for business or pleasure, or picking up someone at the airport, MSN Direct provides relevant information that can help them avoid traffic, save on gas and get to their destination via the most efficient route."
Increased Coverage and Smart Traffic Enhancements
MSN Direct has increased wireless coverage to 134 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada, and has tripled traffic coverage. With Smart Traffic, speed information has expanded from 31 to 94 markets and now covers more roads in existing markets than it has ever covered before. In addition, MSN Direct now offers better reception and faster downloads of time-critical information such as traffic and weather conditions than it offered previously. Expanded network and traffic coverage is available to MSN Direct users immediately.
Advanced Weather Capabilities
With the addition of Doppler weather maps, users can see up-to-date images of the precipitation type (such as rain, snow or a mix) and intensity. Based on the information users provide, they may alter their travel plans to select the route in which they'd be least likely to encounter weather delays.
Up-to-Date Flight Information
By providing flight status information, MSN Direct can help consumers avoid some of the frustrations associated with air travel. For example, users can easily check the status of a friend's incoming flight while on the way to the airport. Armed with knowledge of the flight's delayed arrival, they can then change course, check traffic conditions and tend to the rest of their errands about town.
Expanded Network of MSN Direct Partners
MSN Direct is offered in both portable and in-dash navigation devices. Subscribers can now choose from more than 30 devices manufactured by new consumer electronics partners Kenwood, Mio and Nextar, along with existing partners Garmin Ltd., Alpine Electronics and Pioneer Electronics. Automotive manufacturers BMW, Scion and Suzuki are providing cost-effective integrated navigation solutions. Car models with MSN Direct include the BMW 1 Series, 3 Series and X3; the Scion xB; and the Suzuki SX4.
"Whether at home or work, people have grown accustomed to having information available at their fingertips, and that expectation has expanded to commute and travel time," said Cliff Pemble, president and chief operating officer of Garmin. "Our goal is to provide consumers with a wealth of information that's relevant to their location and situation. Through our strategic partnership with MSN Direct, we're able to meet that goal -- providing value customers are looking for."
Availability and Pricing
Navigation devices purchased with MSN Direct include a free trial of at least three months, after which customers can subscribe to 12 months of service for an annual fee of $49.95 plus applicable tax, or pay a one-time fee of $129.95 plus tax to receive MSN Direct as long as they own their device. Some restrictions apply. More information on MSN Direct pricing, activation, compatible devices and services is available at http://www.msndirect.com/.