Dept. of Missing the point: The HP iPaq Travel Companion 310

What's the best way to connect a Web site to a wireless device? Certainly not with a USB cable.

It has to stop to ask for directions. CNET Networks

I hope and expect that the majority of dash-top GPS products for cars that are released in 2008 will have one new feature that's missing from most 2007 and earlier models: A way to preprogram waypoints and routes via a Web site, and then send that information to the device. From Google Maps you can already send locations to certain BMW and Mercedes cars and some TomTom navigation units, and this is one of the cool new features we're anticipating in the upcoming Dash Navigation product.

But let's hope that other GPS manufacturers don't follow the HP way in designing Web integration, because the advertised online capability on the new iPaq Travel Companion 310 is horribly bungled. Here's why: Although you can create a route on the new iPaq Navigate Web site, and although the iPaq Navigator has a Bluetooth radio that lets it connect to your mobile phone and through it presumably to the Internet, the only way to actually get your online itinerary into your device is to connect it to your PC with a physical cable.

This is comically lame. It requires you to keep your GPS unit with you when you want to program it, not, say, in your car where it belongs. It also means that if you're on a road trip with the device, you've got to remember to pack a USB cable in addition to the car charger to use the online feature, and that you can't use the feature from a borrowed PC, since transferring route data requires a software install on the PC.

The Navigator Web site is pretty poor, too. It's much too complicated, and it's a completely new experience for people accustomed to Google Maps (although it does use Google's KML format for export).

HP's own Google Maps mashup

To be fair, Google Maps' own integration with cars and devices is very limited--you can only send business listings to your device or car, not complete routes--but it's simple to use and doesn't require a technology dance involving two pieces of hardware, proprietary software, and a cable that you'll probably lose.

See also: CNET editor Bonnie Cha's Miss Direction blog.

 

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