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GPS and Wi-Fi Positioning Coming to the Mini 10

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With the recent buzz around the forthcoming TomTom navigation app for the iPhone and recent report that demand for GPS devices is expected to grow steadily over the next few years, there's no question that there's a lot of interest in the technology. We're betting that location services will be a hit in netbooks as well. Starting next week in the United States, we're offering the Dell Wireless 700 location solution for our Mini 10 netbook that is a combination of hardware and software.

The hardware part is an internal GPS card with built-in Wi-Fi locationing.  These two technologies work in tandem, which means the technology works both indoors and out. In other words, it can calculate your position using Wi-Fi access points or using GPS satellites. The Dell Wireless 700 is powered by Broadcom's A-GPS and Skyhook Wireless' Wi-Fi position solutions.

I asked our wireless team for a bit more about the underlying technology, and here's what they told me: The Dell Wireless 700 uses Wi-Fi access points and Long Term Orbit (LTO)-based Assisted-GPS (A-GPS) technology to determine location information. It provides a fast, accurate and reliable location source to applications and services by leveraging the strength of each underlying position technology.

 And here's how the wireless team explained Wi-Fi positioning:

The Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) can determine the location of Wi-Fi enabled devices. All Wi-Fi Access Points broadcast a signal beacon known as a MAC address, notifying nearby devices of their presence. WPS refers to the mapped locations of millions of Wi-Fi MAC addresses to pinpoint the device location. WPS is complementary to GPS. It works best indoors and in urban areas, while GPS is limited by physical obstructions of ceilings and tall buildings.

On the software side, the Dell Wireless 700 location system features CoPilot navigation software to provide turn by turn directions. I offers things like 2D and 3D map views, lets you save up to 50 addresses for one trip, offers trip optimization to provide the most efficient route, can provide instant detour information when you encounter expected delays and provides continuously updated information about the trip.

Another piece of the location-based services that we're bringing to market is a location aware portal. For it, we've partnered with Skyhook Wireless and Loki.  Loki is a browser plugin that comes preconfigured for Internet Explorer and Firefox. It works with Loki-supported sites to improve local search functionality by providing you details from nearby restaurants store locations and your friends' location information from supported social media sites like Flickr, Loopt and  BrightKite.

In the OS department, initially, it will support Windows XP. Vista and Windows 7 support will come later. The Mini 10 is the first system that we'll offer with the optional Dell 700 Wireless location solution. Stay tuned for more details about more supported systems, accessories and more regions.

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