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MSN Direct Goes Dark

10/29/2009 10:20:07 AM Eastern

Redmond, Wash. -Microsoft's MSN Direct's real-time traffic service used in many portable navigation devices (PNDs) will go dark as of Jan. 1, 2012, said Microsoft.

In a notice to consumers Microsoft said MSN Direct, its traffic, weather and information service on unused FM radio spectrum, is now competing with Wi-Fi, cellular and other new technologies that are increasing in popularity.

"Despite good initial MSN Direct adoption, these alternatives have significantly reduced demand for MSN Direct service. As such, Microsoft has made the decision to focus future U.S. and Canada investments on these existing network connections and discontinue the MSN Direct services business," it told consumers.

Users can still sign up for a 12-month subscription or they may receive pro-rated rebates.

MSN Direct is offered on Garmin, Pioneer and Alpine GPS devices at a service fee of approximately $50 per year, but since its launch several years ago, free ad-sponsored traffic has become available and cellular data plans are growing cheaper.

Analyst Dominique Bonte of ABI Research stated in a blog, "What always seemed like a temporary solution - despite the support of PND market leader Garmin - has now effectively been earmarked for phase out." He added, "A similar fate might be awaiting RDS-TMC, the other FM-based one-way connectivity platform which was and still is popular for receiving real-time traffic." As smartphones and cellular-connected PNDs become popular, "there will be no room left for a bandwidth-constrained connectivity platform," he said.

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