Netbooks To Be Used As Navigation Devices!

Small, light and inexpensive laptops that are best suited for general computing, internet applications and accessing web-based applications are now also going to do the job of navigation devices.

The Netbook, typically weighing 2-3 pounds could be your latest personal navigation device that shows you the way around.

Dell has introduced a GPS and Wi-Fi card in their netbooks, and turned them into gizmos that can offer turn-by-turn directions as perfectly and as efficiently as any other good standalone navigation device.

Alan Sicher, a senior wireless product manager at Dell said, “Smartphones already have GPS capabilities. We are now bringing it to netbooks so the devices know where you are and can help you where you want to go.”

Now that the traditional standalone GPS gadget has been around for a while and taken for granted, navigation device makers are looking to create something innovative and are looking to offer their software on other devices too.

TomTom, one of the top Dutch manufacturers of automotive navigation systems recently announced that it would be offering turn-by-turn directions apps on the iPhone. It will also be offering accessories such as a car mounting dock and a power charger.

Dell on the other hand is looking at making the most of the netbook sales by incorporating this feature into its notebooks, specifically the Dell Mini 10 netbook.

The Mini 10 is one of Dell’s main creations in the category of netbooks that typically run Windows XP (not Vista) and have less memory and processing power than the regular laptop like a Lenovo notebook. But they also cost less than $500.

Customers can choose the Wireless 700 card for $69 when ordering their netbook. This card combines Broadcom’s GPS technology and Skyhook Wireless Wi-Fi positioning solutions, which can determine a device’s location through satellite signals, the IDs of Wi-Fi networks nearby or both.

This is the first time Dell has licensed Skyhook’s software for use in any of its products. This “Loki” software integrates with browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox to help users retrieve information from the web, based on their location.

With the integration of GPS cards into netbooks, they will function almost like a personal navigation device, and may help netbooks impinge on the market for standalone GPS devices. Users can just open their netbook and get directions as well as make their netbook location aware. The navigation software called “CoPilot” is said to offer 2D and 3D map views, allow users to save addresses for a trip, provide route optimization and give turn-by-turn directions to drivers. It offers all the features and is as efficient as any standalone GPS device.

In spite of the efficiency with which they work, one cannot help but wonder how these netbooks with GPS devices will fare with the customers. Is it actually feasible to use a netbook as a GPS device; in spite of netbooks being small? Some people feel that carrying it around or using it in the car to find routes may not be all that easy, especially when a cellphone can make the same job much easier.

However, these GPS enabled netbooks may prove to be helpful for international travelers. According to Sicher, “If you are traveling to Europe roaming costs can be pretty pricey for your cellphone. The GPS netbooks could also be handy in areas where cellphone coverage is weak.”

Another point that has to be noted is that although the turn-by-turn directions navigation software on the netbook will be free for people who buy the card and the netbook, the maps are expected to be updated on a yearly basis and customers may be charged for these updates.

Dell is going all out to make this a success and like TomTom, is also offering accessories, such as a dock for the netbooks and a car charger. Dell says it will make the Wireless 700 option available for Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers, as well as for other Dell systems and not just the Mini 10.

With the inclusion of GPS, the netbook now provides much more value for money and this may take off with the customers just the way Dell hopes it would.

Join the discussion