Microsoft to shut down MSN Direct traffic service for GPS
Microsoft is killing its MSN Direct subscription service that provided real-time traffic information, plus weather, stock quotes and local gas prices to car GPS navigators. But not for a while -- the company said the service would shut off Jan. 1, 2012.
Consumers who purchased subscriptions to go beyond that date (several posters to online forums said they had made one-time payments to get the service until 2014) will be given pro-rated refunds, according to the MSN Direct site.
However, it's not clear whether people who bought special equipment to get the service that's delivered over a digital FM network will be compensated. For example, one of the leading GPS companies, Garmin, sells a receiver for MSN Direct that costs $119.99, including a one-year subscription to the service. Garmin executives could not be reached Tuesday evening.
According to a statement on the MSN Direct site, there has been "reduced demand" for the service -- which started in 2004 -- because of the increased popularity of information products delivered by cellular and other digital networks.
Also, although not mentioned in the statement, live traffic information is now included for free on several GPS car models, including some sold by Garmin.
-- David Colker