u-Blox GPS technology to power new Microsoft USB GPS Receiver
Marvin Hlavac

u-blox Holding AG, the Swiss supplier of GPS chips to New York's yellow cabs, today announced that Microsoft Corporation selected its latest positioning engine, u-blox 5, for a new "GPS Locator" USB stick. Thanks to Gladwin for bringing to our attention the press release. The new USB GPS Stick, based on u-blox 5 technology, is going to be included in Microsoft MapPoint 2009 and also with Microsoft Streets and Trips 2009 sold in Canada. The US shipments of Streets & Trips 2009 will include Pharos SiRFstarIII USB GPS receiver GPS-500.

Press and News - 28.08.2008

u-blox GPS technology to power Microsoft MapPoint 2009 USB Stick

Thalwil, Switzerland -- August 28, 2008 -- -- u-blox Holding AG today announced that Microsoft Corporation selected its latest positioning engine, u-blox 5, for a new "GPS Locator" USB stick. The “GPS Locator” USB stick will be bundled with the next release of MapPoint, Microsoft’s business travel and map software package.

The new u-blox 5 GPS chipset is a highly integrated, cost-efficient GPS engine that offers users accurate positioning in a small package without compromising on performance. GPS devices are often bulky and too big to connect to a notebook without a USB cable. With u-blox’ innovative u-blox 5 GPS chipset, Microsoft was finally able to overcome this problem, offering users a compact, easy to use GPS-enabled USB stick that feels very much like memory sticks they are used to.

The “GPS Locator” USB stick provides users with reliable positioning and a USB 2.0 port for fast and easy data transfer all in one tiny package that easily plugs into any computer.

Microsoft expects that this bundled solution, leveraging on Microsoft’s leading location software with u-blox’ GPS excellence, will further expand the market reach of MapPoint.

"We are very proud that Microsoft uses u-blox 5 for its new MapPoint package," said Nikolaos Papadopoulos, President of u-blox America. "The ultra-fast start-up time of the u-blox 5 positioning engine, added to the engine’s high sensitivity, as well as cost and space efficiency make it ideal for mass-market applications like Microsoft's innovative MapPoint location product."

The 2009 edition of MapPoint with u-blox 5-based “GPS Locator” USB Stick is expected to be on the shelves in August 2008.
Marvin Hlavac

What is the difference between the older GPS-500 and the newly introduced USB GPS stick?

GPS-500 units are based on the very good SiRFstarIII chip. GPS-500 is a very good receiver. Perhaps the only two bad things one could say: 1) The physical design could be improved. Some users managed to break it. 2) It is small, so the internal antenna is also small. That leads to slightly worse sensitivity to weak satellite signals in comparison to GPS receivers based on the same chip, but with larger antennas. But for users looking for a small size USB GPS receiver, the slightly lower performance may be secondary.

u-blox 5 is technology newer than SiRFstarIII. Judging purely by the numbers it seems the chip allows for a slightly better sensitivity to weak satellite signals: -160 dBm for u-blox 5 chip versus -159 dBm for SiRFstarIII chip. 1dB is not much, it's not something most of us would likely notice, but it is an improvement nevertheless . But there are other factors to consider, such as design, antenna size, etc. The physical design looks better, and I would guess users will not break this one easily. Is the physical size of the antenna the same as GPS-500, or smaller? I don't know. Users will need to test the new USB GPS stick in real life to find out how well it performs.
Marvin Hlavac
I edited my above postings to reflect the new info I just read at the blog of Chris Pendleton of Microsoft. According to his blog, the new USB GPS stick will be included in MapPoint 2009 with GPS Locator, and the Canadian shipments of Streets & Trips 2009 with GPS Locator. The new GPS receiver will not be included in S&T 2009 sold in the USA. Instead, US customers will receive Pharos SiRFstarIII GPS-500 with their purchase of Streets & Trips 2009 with GPS Locator.

Here's the link to the blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/virtualearth/archive/2008/08/28/new-gps-provider-for-mappoint-2009.aspx
This does look easier to mod into a laptop, no more snapped off usb connectors
Ken in Regina
I would be looking for the US version of S&T if I was going to use it in a vehicle. There is so much more flexibility where you can put the Pharos 500 with its cable than where you can place the laptop with the receiver plugged directly into a USB port. I can't imagine that you could get the same reception with a laptop in a typical mount with the u-blox receiver as with the Pharos set up on the dash near the windshield.

Marvin Hlavac
That's true, Ken. We often forget that it is still important to place a GPS unit in a location where it will see the sky in all possible directions. GPS receivers today have such good sensitivity that they will work even when placed on the floor of a car, but they perform much better when placed near a window.

I think the new USB GPS stick would be a perfect match for pocket-sized UMPCs, but it will also likely appeal to many owners of laptops. I think a short, inexpensive, USB extension cable could be used to move the USB GPS stick to a better location in a car, if necessary. Perhaps Microsoft will even include a short extension cable with this new USB GPS stick, as they do with GPS-500.
Originally Posted by Marvin Hlavac
...I think a short, inexpensive, USB extension cable could be used to move the USB GPS stick to a better location in a car, if necessary. Perhaps Microsoft will even include a short extension cable with this new USB GPS stick, as they do with GPS-500.
I'm a big fan of using a USB cord with GPS receivers. Microsoft has thoughtfully included a short extention cable with both versions of the GPS. All the magic is in the GPS stick itself so ANY USB cable should work. You can even daisy-chain a couple together if you need a longer reach.
Marvin Hlavac

I'm still getting conflicting pieces of information, and it still appears that this new u-Blox 5 / Microsoft USB GPS stick may not be included in Streets & Trips 2009 w/GPS Locator packages this year at all.

If you spot Streets & Trips 2009 with GPS Locator in a store, please let us know which GPS receiver you see in the box. It could be in stores as soon as next week (Sept. 15, 2008). For now ignore the box shots that appear on websites of various online stores.
Juan Cooldude
For the foreseeable future, Streets & Trips 2009 sold in the US will have the Pharos GPS device.
Marvin Hlavac
Thanks, Juan Cooldude. But I hear that now even Canada will have the Pharos USB GPS-500. A last minute change of plans, apparently. But I'm still hoping my source is wrong, and the u-blox unit will be sold at least up here.
Juan Cooldude
The current plan is still for Streets & Trips 2009 sold in Canada to have the UBlox based GPS device.
Marvin Hlavac
That's good news. My last info is about one week old (Sept 3), so likely I have incorrect info.
I think Bluetooth is the way to go.
Marvin Hlavac
Hi SpadesFlush,

:welcome: to the Laptop GPS World.

You are very likely referring to the Bluetooth adapters for the Pharos/Microsoft GPS-500. The Bluetooth adapter modules are indeed a neat idea, but I've always thought they were not priced right. For the same price one could just purchase a brand new Bluetooth GPS receiver instead.
Thank you very much; it is nice to discover the site!

Yes I am referring to the Pharos. I already had the GPS-500 as do other purchasers of the complete MSFT package, so I was inclined towards the Pharos BT dock.

I was (and am) completely ignorant of other BT-GPS devices and, therefore, accept your wisdom on the subject.

BTW, thanks for your leadership and enhancement development in this arena.
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