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Microsoft has managed to convince Garmin to embed SPOT technology into some of their GPS devices, while also expanding their transmission network with Clear Channel to broadcast SPOT content over their HD Radio network.

Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) was a service launched by Microsoft back in 2003 when they managed to convince several brands of wristwatch that their MSN Direct service was the way of the future. Fossil, Swatch and Tissot were amongst those who fell for the spiel and launched watches with little screens to display broadcast information. All have since quietly dropped their SPOT products as the market turned out not to exist.

But while most of us had forgotten SPOT, it seems Microsoft has just been waiting for the right application, and by integrating the technology into GPS devices they might have made a very clever move. Users of GPS, by definition, want local information, and Microsoft intends to broadcast traffic updates, cinema listings and even the price of petrol locally.

The current MSN Direct network covers about 70 per cent of the US population, though that will significantly increase with the announced Clear Channel deal. The HD Radio network is digital radio, with spare bandwidth for programming information; and it is this spare bandwidth which be utilised by Microsoft for their next generation of SPOT devices which they hope will be available to 90 per cent of the US population by the end of 2008.

Initial GPS devices from Garmin will use the existing network, and be out in the next few months. Microsoft are working with other manufacturers to embed the technology in both reference designs and products, as well as looking anywhere else such broadcasts might be of value. ®

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