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Garmin Updates GPS Lines, Goes to Dogs

Garmin Updates GPS Lines, Goes to Dogs

Fresh off a dismissal of some patent infringement claims which left both Garmin and rival TomTom declaring victory, Garmin has announced a major refresh of its GPS product line…including a new product designed to let Fido in on the GPS action.

First up: the Garmin Astro, consisting of a transmitter harnessed to your favorite pooch and a handheld receiver which stays with the owner. Designed to help out with the location of hunting dogs and other working pooches rather than to let distressed owners zoom in on their roving canines when they jump the backyard fence for an impromptu romp, the Astro needs very little configuration and shows a mape page to display the location of a dog and where it has been. Owners can download waypoints and tracks to MapSource of for analysis on topographic maps or even Google Earth. A single receiver can track up to ten dogs at once with an effective range up to five miles, depending on terrain. The Astro should be available in June, 2007, for a suggested price of $649—although no subscription plans are required to use the Astro.

Moving back to more-traditional GPSs, Garmin has announced two new nüvi handheld GPS systems, a new StreetPilot model, and a GPS for motorcycles.

The waterproof zümo 450 for motorcycles features a glove-friendly design with oversized buttons and a 3.5-inch 320 by 240 pixel daylight-capable LCD display. The unit is pre-loaded with American map data from NAVTEQ with over six million points of interest, offers 2D or 3D map display, and enables rider to access trip data (speed heading, and even a fuel gauge) on screen. The zümo 450 also features a locking mount with waterproof power and data cabling, and the system is designed to withstand serious vibration. Expect the zümo 450 in March 2007 with an oddly specific estimated price of $799.

Garmin also announced two new nüvi GPS units with pre-loaded American and European maps, along with Asian American versions localized for Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, or Taiwanese. The nüvi 370 and nüvi 670 offer preloaded street-level maps of the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and over 30 European countries, viewable on either a 3.5-inch display (the 370) or a larger 4.3-inch display (the 670). Users can search through millions-deep point-of-interest databases and, of course, add their own points. Both units sport an integrated traffic receiver to tie into available traffic services, and the systems will automatically suggest new routes when delays appear—in Europe, most traffic services are free, but in the U.S. the service is provided by Total Traffic Network (Garmin provided 3 month service for free; after that, it’s $60/year). Both Nüvi’s offer Bluetooth and integrated microphones and speakers to facilitate hands-free voice calling in conjunction with a Bluetooth handset. Expect the new nüvi’s to land at retailers in February, with steep suggested prices: $899 for the 370, and $1,099 for the 670. (The Asian American localized versions will run under 350 and 660 model numbers.)

Finally, Garmin has taken the wraps of its nüvi 680 and StreetPilot c580, which link into Microsoft’s MSN Direct network to offer real-time information like traffic and weather, but also gas prices, movie show times. Once a user programs a destination into one of the devices, it fetches MSN Direct traffic data and plans a route which avoids traffic accidents, congestion, and road closures—and if conditions change en route, the units update their planning to guide users. Other information available includes gas prices from more than 100,000 gas stations in the United States, along with reports on current weather conditions and three-day forecasts. The nüvi 680 features a 4.3-inch screen, Bluetooth-driven hands-free calling capability, and FM transmitter to play voice prompts over an in-car audio system; the SteetPilot c580 offers the same features with a 3.5-inch display. Both units should be available in early 2007, with the nüvi carrying a suggested price of $999.99 and the c580 priced at $799.99.

Garmins bevy of new GPS devices will, of course, be on show at next week’s CES show in Las Vegas.

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