Dell Mini 10 GPS Option, Hands-On

We just had our hands on the upcoming GPS option for the Dell mini 10 called Dell Wireless 700 ($69) (no hack involved). The optional upgrade comes in the form of a mini-PCI module that includes a GPS chip. With this version, Dell also plans to deliver an HD display (1366×768) already present in the $449Dell mini 10. Location-based software is also included with the Dell Location Utility, Loki, a software that canfind your location based on surrounding WIFI networks, and most importantly, a desktop version of co-pilot live () maps available for the U.S, France, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Clearly, Dell’s goal is not to replace your car’s integrated navigation, or your handheld personal navigation device. Instead, Dell thinks that GPS/location based service is a long-term trend that the company should work on today, starting with early adopters who might already seek this particular option.

There are a number of websites and social networks (like brightkite)that can immediately take advantage of your location data. The experience won’t be turned upside down, but there’s no need to enter you address or zip code anymore. On the GPS navigation side, you get the comfort of using a 10″ display with decent processing power, and Dell has thought of creating a 12V car adapter for the mini 10 which should take care of potential battery life issues in the car. We wonder how one should setup the mini 10 in a car? We are not sure, but we guess that if we don’t slam the brakes, it should be ok…

Overall, we find the idea interesting even if it won’t be adopted by the masses immediately. Dell’s assessment that GPS will become pervasive is correct: because it is a fixed function, GPS (as a chip) will get cheaper and cheaper to the point that it is no different from Bluetooth or WIFI. Anyone who uses GPS as an external device today should take a look at this.

Because the mini 10 is already considered as a “companion device”, it is logical to build upon this platform. Our feedback is that Dell needs to make sure that it is practical: today, leaving the notebook on to use it as a pedestrian GPS might seem to be wasteful by users for the battery. But, in time and with a battery of 8-12 hours, people won’t mind so much. Also, a tablet format like the Asus T91 might be a desirable because there’s no way that we would use the mouse cursor or the arrow keys in a car and walking on the street with a laptop open seems goofy. Finally, there’s the pricing: at close to $100 (with HD display upgrade), this might be worth 25% of the computer itself. We don’t know if the market can bear that price, but I guess that we’ll see soon enough. One thing is for sure: GPS prices can only go down. Oh finally, we think that the co-pilot navigation software could really use some GPU love.

When we asked dell to clarify its strategy, we have been told that Dell is in the business of selling computers, and not writing software. That means that Dell will partner with 3rd parties to create value with their offering.

How would you use a GPS in a laptop? What laptop would you want with a GPS? Do you want a laptop with a GPS? Add a comment and tell us what you think.

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