Hit the road
The new fleet of GPS devices is all souped up.
By Amanda C. Kooser
As GPS devices get more affordable, manufacturers are packing in new features to distinguish their offerings. One of the most useful innovations is voice command. Garmin, Magellan and TomTom all offer units with at least some voice command capabil-ities. The Garmin Nüvi 850 and 880 can even accept addresses by voice. When it comes to finding and building routes, the free Hewlett-Packard iPAQ Navigate site puts the internet to work. Users can create trip plans and research points of interest. These plans can then be moved onto an iPAQ 300 series GPS or shared with other users, which could be a convenient way to handle trip planning for multiple employees.
Real-time traffic updates have been around for a while, but manufacturers are upping the ante with more services. The MioMore Online connected service from Mio, for instance, lets you conduct local searches and get weather. Just be prepared to pay subscription fees for some of the real-time offerings. The MSN Direct service for certain Garmin devices is free for the first three months, then costs $49.95 per year or a one-time payment of $130. The more advanced GPS units do come at a price. The feature-packed $1,299 Magellan Maestro Elite 5340+GPRS teams up with Google Local Search for local data. It's another sign that GPS is cozying up with internet services to provide a richer on-the-road experience.
Life in The iPass Lane
Be more receptive to staying in touch when you're on the go.
By Mike Hogan
Mobile entrepreneurs face an alphabet soup of options for IP messaging on the road--from dial-up to Wi-Fi to EV-DO Rev.whatever. But expanding coverage and more powerful technologies notwithstanding, no single connectivity method works everywhere, says Rick Bilodeau, vice president of iPass, whose iPass Mobile Broadband Index profiles mobile usage worldwide. Travelers, especially globe-trotters, often need a variety of connectivity subscriptions, and even multiple phones and computing devices.
Many enterprises are bridging that complexity with a single iPass subscription, a service the company is now rolling out to growing businesses. For $30 to $84, depending on which options you choose, a monthly iPassConnect subscription offers a single interface and a single log-on to about 95,000 Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide, common dial-up services and cellular providers who use 2.5G and 3G CDMA derivatives.
That's the dominant U.S. cell phone protocol--the one used by Sprint and Verizon Wireless. But cellular can be problematic in rural settings or inside large buildings, leaving users to fall back on dial-up, 2.5G or Wi-Fi. iPass covers about half of the world's Wi-Fi hot spots. But more important, says Bilodeau, is where iPass connectivity is available--namely, in 80 percent of the world's 100 most-trafficked airports and 2,300 hotels. "Not all locations are equally important to travelers," explains Bilodeau. "Airports are an order of magnitude more important than hotels, which are more important than retail locations."
Because new wireless technologies are exploding, iPass can't necessarily reduce the number of phones and portables you carry. Its single sign-on currently needs Windows as well as the 3G radio card and software bundled free with your subscription. Although iPass will add form factors and software platforms like the Apple iPhone, connectivity won't necessarily get simpler going forward.
Fourth-generation technologies like WiMAX will overlay current wireless clouds, not replace them, says Bilodeau. Expect your telecom acronyms and subscription needs to grow along with them.
Talk is Cheap
With their innovative phone service, these entrepreneurs are giving people something to talk about.
By Sara Wilson
Haven't you heard? The demand for low-cost, high-quality telephony using VoIP is ringing out loud and clear. Roman Scharf and Daniel Mattes, 37 and 36, respectively, stopped to listen. In 2005, they founded Jajah, a telecommunications company offering competitive rates, contract-free usage and the ability to make calls directly from a landline or mobile phone.
Scharf and Mattes received $3 million in initial funding from VC firm Sequoia Capital on the condition that they move their headquarters from Austria to the United States. Three weeks later, the duo relocated to Mountain View, California. Currently offering service in 200 countries, Jajah is creating quite a chatter among its millions of users.
After inking a strategic partnership with Intel last year, Jajah expects to form even more this year, and it recently opened its platform for use by landline and cable companies. "We're not going to conquer the world on our own," says Trevor Healy, 37, co-owner and CEO, who projects year-end sales of more than $30 million.