Garmin – Kudos for Iterative Product Improvement.

There are a number of items in my professional life that I would really not like to try to live without. One of them is my Garmin GPS.

4 ½ years ago I purchased my Garmin StreetPilot III at a local Computer City. My wife thoughts I was NUTS. I spent $1500 for the GPS, complete US Map set, and spare sets of dashboard mounting gear.

It had the features I wanted at the time. Dashboard mount, Color Display, Voice Navigation Hints, Updatable Maps, etc.

The Street Pilot III had some quirks and some less-than-perfect implementation details - but still, after the first day I was hooked. It meant visiting 3 or 4 customers a day instead of 2. I never got lost, could always find a Thai Restaurant, the closest Starbucks, Borders Books, or Gas Station….. 

This past Christmas my wife and I were taking out children (2 & 3 years old) to their Grand Parents in Syracuse NY - a short 7 hours drive away. I moved my StreetPilot III to the family Mini-Van so I could find the local bookstores while there.

While I was packing up the car my mischievous three year old was pretending to drive in the front seat. What I failed to observe was her taking the toll tokens out of the coffee cup holder and inserting them into all the various slots in the dashboard.

When I started the car - the dashboard went POP and the lights went out.

The Street Pilot III is always on when plugged into the Car Adapter and event though the adapter has a built in fuse, damage was done. The unit would no longer run on batteries which meant I could not move the map segments and waypoints form my PC to the GPS.

I went to to arrange to have the unit serviced and learned that the "flat rate" service fee for the StreetPilot III was (with shipping) about $300. I bummer, but it was several years old and a discontinued model, so I understand. (The more time and money a company spends maintaining service on retired models, the less they can spend on R&D and new product development.)

New Garmin GPS's range from $100 to $2000 and I spent a lot of time choosing a replacement for my StreetPilot III. I selected the SpreetPilot 2620 for about $800.

I revel in the iterative improvement of the StreetPilot product line.

1.) A major complaint I had with the StreetPilot II was the amount of time it took to find the GPS satellites and the lengthy amount of time that it tool to re-calculate when you wandered off route (even if only by 40 yards). Satellite detection is now faster and off-route recalculation is almost INSTANT.
2.) The device now has THREE user input devices. A touch screen, and set of control keys and a remote control.

3.) The entire North American map set is preloaded on board. The only time I need to connect the unit to my PC via USB is when I want to update software.

4.) The antenna is now internal, the unit is a bit smaller but has a larger display and the DC adapter is more compact. The whole thing fits in a small travel case which means I can easily take it (along with the dashboard sandbag mount) with me on road trips for use in rental cars.

It's a difficult thing for a company to maintain compatibility with older versions of their products while improving subsequent versions.

Kudos to Garmin for a great job in meeting this goal with the StreetPilot.

Now if they'll just come out with an .NET SDK :

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