As originally stated in a press release from 2009, Microsoft has turned off their MSN Direct data service as of January 1, 2012.
The low-bandwidth subscription service used FM radio frequencies across the US and some areas of Canada to transmit breaking news, stock market information, traffic, and weather updates. Since it never really caught on with the mass public, the MSN team made the decision to discontinue the service.
In the past, Garmin had teamed up with MSN to offer the Direct program on their nuvi 78x and 88x series, both of which came with integrated power cables. The more recent nuvi series come with FM traffic receivers instead of the MSN receivers, but fortunately they are backwards compatible. Therefore, the older nuvi 7xx and 8xx models will be able to add the TMC FM traffic data with the Garmin GTM 20 cable.
Microsoft's goal was to have MSN Direct integrated with everyday objects like watches, radios, and coffee makers to provide instantaneous updates anywhere and everywhere. However, it seems that the idea was ahead of its time. In 2002, during the early days of MSN Direct, Wi-Fi and high-speed cell service were not as prevalent as they are now a decade later. 2012 would have been a much better starting point for this type of service, with the online population always looking for instant gratification when it comes to information.
In the grand scheme of things, the end of MSN Direct is just a slight bump in the road for Microsoft. Stay tuned this week, January 10-13, for new product reveals from the computer giant at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, NV.