By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Dash Navigation delayed the release of its anticipated two-way GPS device to a soft launch in the first quarter of 2008, followed by a full retail debut in the spring.
The Dash Express was originally scheduled for release this fall, but the company decided to update the product based on suggestions gleaned from a current nationwide test trial.
The Dash Express "would need to ship this month when the stores reset for the holiday season, so unfortunately, we've missed the holiday season. The next major reset is April for 'dads and grads,' so the product will be online in the first quarter and then will go out to retail for the spring reset," said marketing senior VP Robert Acker
Dash signaled the future of the industry when it announced last year it would introduce an "always-connected" GPS/internet appliance for the car with Wi-Fi and a GPS modem. The unit would collect road speed data from its owner as he drove and broadcast that information to other Dash Express users, to form an up-to-the-minute traffic network. It would also allow on-the-spot Yahoo! Local searches.
In April, the company announced a nationwide road trial to test the new devices.
More than 50,000 consumers applied to participate in the test trial and 2,000 were chosen. Since May the 2,000 participants have covered almost 1 million miles of road in key markets, Acker said.
The new Dash Express will sport a 4.3-inch screen, and it will allow a full regional view of traffic (indicated by color coding) vs. a view of traffic on just the user's route. In addition, users can tap on any major street to zoom in for a more in-depth view of traffic. Dash says it takes one minute for information collected by Dash users to appear on other users' screens.
Other significant feature changes will be announced this fall, said Dash, which claims it does not want to tip its hand to competitors.
The new Dash Express will also offer a couple of hours of battery life so it may be transferred to another car without needing a power mount. It will support faster map rendering, improved text-to-speech to announce street names, a USB port and QWERTY keyboard.
The original road test should be complete by the end of September, and the new unit will be field tested from October through the end of the year, said Acker.
The company is talking to online retailers for the soft launch in the first quarter. The product is still slated sell in the $500 to $600 price range.
From its test trial, Dash said it learned that 68 percent of people use the Dash Express most or every time they drive. Users also conduct an average of 1.62 Yahoo! Local searches on the unit each day.
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