Dell recently announced it'll make a GPS add-on for its Mini 10 netbook. While your mileage may vary on the value of this idea, I'm making my mark here: This is one of the dumbest gadget ideas ever.
I can see the inherent value of having GPS in a proper computer versus the cheapo hardware and low-power processors you'll find in dashboard GPS units—it should allow for more powerful GPS apps that are better at navigating you through diversions, and there's all sorts of interesting geotagging options that'll become available for your photos and videos. And I bet you're imagining those 8-or 10-inch netbook screens will be particularly helpful in clearly seeing the turn-by-turn directions you're about to follow, or check out those realistic freeway junction lane-guides, which often appear too small on the typical dashboard GPS.
But that right there is the problem. Netbooks are just too darn big for this job! Dell even plans to sell in-car mounts and cigarette-lighter power attachments for the uprated Mini 10, the same paraphernalia you get with a dedicated TomTom or Garmin. But where will you mount the thing? Sticking it atop the dashboard is ridiculous for many cars since it'll just obscure too much of the view of the road ahead—California authorities used to not let you stick a standard GPS to the windshield for this reason. Having the GPS netbook hovering over the passenger seat, or somewhere inappropriate in the middle of the car's center console is also dangerous—think about how distracting it'll be to look down and inside your car for any length of time to check the directions.
Then there's potholes—a good bump and, unless Dell's car mount also secures the LCD, it'll flap to an unviewable angle.
So cars seem like a non-sensible location to use the turn-by-turn features: How about for pedestrians? Makes more sense, and being distracted is generally less important when you're navigating a sidewalk...but who wants to trot down the road with a netbook held in front of you? Maybe it'll work out if you have it in a knapsack with the audio turning instructions fed via headphones...but by that point wouldn't you be better off with a dedicated system, or one in a smartphone anyway?
I can understand Dell wanting to differentiate its netbooks in a very crowded marketplace, and I give kudos to the company for advancing toward the future where every gadget will be location-aware. But this is bonkers—it works only if you have a human co-pilot to hold the thing and help you navigate. The option will be available next week, with CoPilot nav software for $70.