Microsoft launch targets your ‘sat nav’

Microsoft has today set its sights firmly on expanding its reach in the portable device market with its first ever operating system (OS) targeted at satellite navigation manufacturers.

The vendor has launched Windows Embedded NavReady 2009 to enable original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop new connected portable navigation devices (PNDs) that are capable of connecting to online services, Bluetooth-capable mobile phones, Windows-based PCs and the internet.

According to forecasts from mobile analyst firm Canalys, global shipments of portable navigation device solutions are expected to grow 72 per cent year-on-year in 2008 alone. And annual shipment levels will rise to around 100 million units by 2010.

Frank Prengel, Microsoft Windows Embedded developer evangelist, told IT PRO the launch was part of the company's smart connected service oriented' vision for devices.

"Many PNDs today come loaded with static information," he said. "And some offer in-car Bluetooth connectivity to your mobile phone, only for some users to find their phones are not supported," he said. "With an FM receiver built-in, device manufacturers are looking to offer the ability to query traffic information, fuel prices and location-based data, like new restaurants opening in a given area for instance."

Most PND manufacturers, like Garmin and Navman, base their systems on Microsoft's mobile OS, Windows Embedded CE 5.0. NavReady 2009 builds on this OS with production-level code for new features and an advanced Bluetooth stack, Prengel said.

"We're trying to provide lots of drivers typical used by PNDs," he explained. "Windows CE ships with sample code that had to be debugged and optimised, but NavReady comes with production-level code that will help device makers to ship new devices as quickly as possible. The Bluetooth stack will help your mobile phone to pair with the PND and also your car, as we're testing it with tons of the most popular phone models."

In addition to the Bluetooth capabilities, NavReady 2009 features include in-built functionality to connect to Microsoft's Live Search and MSN Direct services. And it also builds in Windows Sideshow functionality for Vista that can turn the PND into a digital picture frame in offline mode.

Prengel added that Microsoft plans to release the same new features for its Windows CE 6.0 release. But "many OEMs want to get these features into development on their existing platforms in time for the holidays," he said.

Chris Jones, Canalys vice president and principal analyst, added: "Personal navigation solutions will increasingly become connected, which will open up new opportunities to add value through the delivery of dynamic information and location-based services. But this is a highly competitive market and it is important that businesses like Windows Embedded help OEMs and others bring these rich devices to market quickly and efficiently."

The Windows Embedded NavReady 2009 technologies are available for download.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.