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What always seemed like a temporary solution despite the support of PND market leader Garmin has now effectively been earmarked for phase out. Based on unlicensed FM spectrum in the US and Canada, MSN Direct was designed to stream navigation content such as traffic, weather, gas prices, events, and even destinations or routes planned on an on-line mapping tools to a range of mobile devices, offering an alternative for RDS-TMC or Satellite connectivity. However, with the expected availability of an increasing number of mobile devices featuring built-in two-way cellular connectivity and/or Wi-Fi connected PNDs only being one example the lifecycle of MSN Direct is coming to an end.

It is one more of Microsofts initiatives (diversions? experiments?) never really having taken off, partly due to the high price, partly due to performance problems such as latency. While initially there was a window of opportunity for providing an alternative to expensive cellular connectivity, this has now closed as data plans have become much cheaper. At the same timeLBS and navigation business models are quickly evolving towards cheaper or even free solutions in a fiercely competitive environment. In these circumstances, for Microsoft to offer premium content services on a marginal connectivity platform simply no longer makes sense.

It is no coincidence Microsoft has taken the decision to close MSN Direct down now, as it is part of a wide ranging cost-cutting program to increase overall profitability and refocus on core areas.

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. With handset-based navigation and connected PNDs starting to become mainstream, there will be no room left for a bandwidth constrained connectivity platform only suitable for low resolution, low granularity traffic information, despite the promise of its successor TPEG offering improved performance.