But don't look for the company to market the nav-u systems on television or radio or in print. It plans to sell and market the portable GPS devices through Sony Style stores and on the Web to test the U.S. market before launching a campaign.
The nav-u car GPS navigator offers SiRF Technology SiRFstarIII chips for fixing satellite locations, among other features, such as Position Plus and text-to-speech navigation. Made possible with pressure, gyroscope and accelerator sensors, the Position Plus feature lets the device calculate the approximate position of the car if it temporarily loses a GPS signal, which often happens while driving through a concrete tunnel or canyon.
Nav-u relies on NavTeq's digital mapping software. It includes maps of all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico, and 5 million points of interest. Although new to the game in the United States, Sony has been working on GPS technology in Japan for the past 15 years.
The NV-U73T base model with a 4.3-inch screen is priced at approximately $399. The NV-U83T adds Bluetooth and a 4.8-inch wide split-screen feature that offers three-dimensional viewing. Both are scheduled for release in February.
The move pits Sony head to head with Magellan, which announced a partnership with Google this week to allow consumers to search for information on local businesses and events.
The five-inch screen has a one-touch user interface, according to Bill Strand, product marketing manager at Magellan. "It allows you to program searches into one icon," he says. "If you're the type who likes Starbucks coffee, rather than go through points of interest you program it into one icon and it does the search for you."
Maestro Elite 5340+GPRS, a connected auto navigation unit, features Google Local Search that enables users to access specific information on the go. The model with the GPS Internet connection will run $1,299, which Magellan will release to retailers in March.
The wireless GPRS connection also provides real-time traffic information and local weather forecasts. It lets consumer send addresses and notes directly to the Maestro Elite 5340 prior to leaving on a trip.