By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The portable GPS and handheld PDA markets continue to intertwine, with Garmin announcing that it has licensed the Palm operating system and Magellan showing it's latest GPS add-on for the Handspring Visor.
In addition, Casio and Seiko showed new GPS watches, and Garmin launched a new line of portable GPS units under its StreetPilot and eTrek series.
The consumer portable GPS market is growing at a rate of approximately 15-20 percent annually on sales of 1 million to 1.5 million units, according to Magellan product manager for consumer products Randy Hall.
Part of the continued growth will come from combining GPS with other consumer products, said suppliers. "GPS by itself has always been lacking in usefulness to the average person," said Hall, "but when you marry it with mapping and location-based services over a wireless communication link, it gains more appeal."
Garmin is also pursuing a convergence strategy with handhelds, and announced at CES an agreement with Palm to produce a line of handhelds using the Palm OS, combining it with Garmin's GPS hardware and software. The company would not say if the products would be marketed mainly as handheld PCs with GPS capability or as GPS portables with organizer functions, only that products were now on the drawing boards.
"If you look at our history, we've done this with other things, such as a GPS and cellphone and, in the marine market, a GPS and fish-finder," said a Garmin spokeswoman. "In aviation we combined aviation tools with GPS. So, we are continuing to do a lot of interfacing. This is a natural extension for us."
Magellan's new GPS add-on for the Handspring Visor is called the GPS companion and ships this month at a street price in the $150 to $160 range. It joins the GPS companion for the Palm V and Vx which shipped in mid-2000.
New from Garmin are three handheld 12-channel GPS units under the eTrex series, which are smaller and offer a higher-resolution screen of 160 x 288 pixels.
All of the new models weigh 5 ounces and have a rocker switch on the front for panning and selecting functions. The new eTrex Venture adds a worldwide database of cities and increased internal memory of up to 1MB.
Users can download restaurant and other information from a new Mapsource Points of Interest CD-ROM from Garmin. The eTrex Venture comes in a translucent green case and will ship in January at a suggested retail price of $194.27.
The eTrex Legend comes with a base map of North and South America, including lakes, rivers, cities, interstates, national and state highways, railroads and coastlines.
It has 8MB of memory for downloading from any Garmin CD-ROM. It comes in a translucent blue case and will ship in January at a suggested retail price of $267.84.
Also shipping in January is the eTrex Vista, which combines a base map of North and South America with a barometric altimeter (for altitude) and electronic compass. It has 8MB of memory and a silver case at $374.99.
In GPS watches, Casio bowed a GPS wristwatch called the Satellite NAVI PAT-2GP, which the company claims is the smallest and lightest in the world. The 12-channel GPS receiver watch taps into 12 GPS satellites to tell users their current location, and for the first time, allows users to transfer the data to a PC for route mapping.
Unlike Casio's first GPS watch, which debuted last year, the PAT-2GP uses a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a high-density device mounting that can pack more devices on a single circuit board. Casio said these features allow the 2GP to be 40 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than the original.
The PC link software allows users to import and display raster map images (BMP or JPEG) on a computer, and to plot a starting point, waypoints and final destination on the computer screen. The route can then be transferred to the NAVI watch, which monitors the user's progress as he or she moves along the set route and keeps track of the distance remaining to the destination and the current bearing.
The Satellite NAVI PAT-2GP has a suggested retail price of $499.95.
Seiko showed a prototype of a GPS watch that measures distance traveled and average travel velocity.
Also new from Garmin is the third-generation portable car-navigation StreetPilot III, which adds turn-by-turn directions and voice prompts and is expected to ship in March at a suggested retail price of $1,272. The 12-channel GPS receiver provides onscreen direction cues on its 3.8-inch, 16-color screen, as well as audible voice prompts. It claims accuracy within 30 feet and a screen resolution of 305 x 160 pixels.
The unit has a built-in base map for all major highways, roadways, railways, waterways, and geopolitical borders for North and South American, and an internal database provides exit information for U.S. interstate highways, plus points of interest.
The StreetPilot III comes with a CD-ROM map database that allows uses to preload route information from their PC. The CD-ROM includes nationwide digital coverage areas (DCAs) but only one user-preferred DCA is automatically unlocked.
The device uses 32MB proprietary removable data cards for shuttling information between the PC and car. It comes with a USB cable/blackbox to speed up downloading, plus a PC cable and 12-volt adapter with external speaker.
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