Magellan: Global Manufacturer Ensures Low-Cost Development for Global Positioning Devices

Magellan, headquartered in the United States, develops and manufactures global positioning devices and markets its line of survey, geographic information system (GIS) and global positioning system (GPS) solutions under the Magellan Professional brand. The organisation’s management wanted to launch a new family of handheld products. It needed to deliver a rich user interface with personal digital assistant (PDA)-style functionality and a cost-effective development environment. For the new product line, Magellan Professional selected Microsoft® Windows® CE .NET 4.2. As a result, the organisation ensured the rapid development of the MobileMapper CE GPS mobile mapping device. The operating system’s advanced driver support, simple development tools, and rich features meant that Magellan Professional cost effectively completed development
and customisation of an engaging user interface. Furthermore, the device’s development
environment is popular among the world’s leading application developers such as ESRI in USA and Digiterra in Hungary.


Great ideas for value-added handheld devices are not enough to ensure business success. For Magellan Professional, it needs to deliver industry-leading global positioning devices within tight timescales. This ensures the products
retain their competitive advantage and arrive on the market during peak sales periods.

Magellan, headquartered in the United States, is one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of global satellite positioning and navigation equipment and markets its survey and geographic information system (GIS) and global positioning system (GPS) solutions under the Magellan Professional brand. It has experienced rapid revenue growth and market expansion as GPS use proliferates across a broad range of applications. Stig Pedersen,
Senior Director of Marketing Strategy for Magellan Professional, says: “Managing development cycles is crucial so that our new products are released to market at the most advantageous times, such as autumn and spring, when sales are strongest.”

Changes in the marketplace, however, added additional pressures to the creation of new products. Research found that the potential market for Magellan Professional’s products was evolving in dramatic new ways. The devices—traditionally used by professional
surveyors in the field—were attracting more people in other industries, such as agriculture, emergency, and maintenance services.

New products had to meet the demands of a wider range of users, who wanted richer user interfaces (UIs) and personal digital assistant (PDA)-style functionality. Pedersen says: “We needed to create devices with features similar to Bluetooth, and with Internet connectivity that would strike a chord right across the whole user community. In addition, there was the requirement to ensure that these devices used non-proprietary environments to support
the mobile applications of the future.”

To find the right operating system quickly was a priority. Magellan Professional planned to create a family of new, rugged handheld devices for the industrial and professional geographic information systems (GIS) markets that required mobile global positioning solutions.

Pedersen comments: “This was a key turning point in the development of Magellan Professional’s
products. We were keenly aware that our decisions over the development environment
could shape the future success of our handheld mobile devices in the marketplace.”


After a thorough review of the market, Magellan Professional selected the Microsoft® Windows® CE .NET 4.2 operating system as the non-proprietary solution for the family of new devices, including MobileMapper CE. The organisation already knew of the cost effectiveness
and advanced flexibility of solutions from Microsoft. Magellan Professional IT network uses Windows XP Professional and the Microsoft Office System applications to support day-to-day business processes and increase productivity of personnel.

For Magellan Professional, the business value of using Windows CE was clear because the solution came with the following:

  • A rich UI with advanced integration to support Bluetooth and wireless technology,
    and advanced applications, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 and Microsoft Windows Media® Player.
  • Superior reliability based on years of experience at Microsoft in developing operating systems.
  • A robust ecosystem of Microsoft partners
    to help build intelligent and reliable mobile devices.
  • Development toolsets that mean manufacturers
    can cost effectively and quickly build, debug, and deploy Windows CE-based applications.

Pedersen says: “When you evaluate the operating
systems on the market, you quickly establish the business value of using Windows CE. For us, there was no doubt that Windows Embedded offered the best solution. With the toolsets Windows CE provides, the solution represents the most cost-efficient, secure development
environment, and the infrastructure of choice for developers of mobile devices.”

Magellan Professional needed a technology partner to implement Windows CE on the Atmel AT91RM9200 processor, which provides
the hardware component of its new devices and MobileMapper CE. It turned to Adeneo, a systems integrator and Windows Embedded Partner.

Thanks to Adeneo’s global competence in board support package (BSP) and driver design, Magellan Professional signed a contract with the partner to develop the processor’s hardware
and software environments.

Adeneo had to design a hardware development
board and provide the complete Windows CE board support package within six months. This gave developers at Magellan Professional nine months to work concurrently
and complete the necessary product design and customisation for MobileMapper CE’s UI prior to the planned launch date.

Pedersen recalls: “The Adeneo team was incredibly supportive and flexible. It delivered
the development board and BSP on time and offered an advanced level of expertise
to assist us during the final design and customisation stages.”

Magellan Professional used the following development tools for completing the customisation

  • Windows CE .NET 4.2 Platform Builder as the integrated development environment (IDE) for the operating system design and run-time image
  • The Microsoft eMbedded Visual C++® 4.0 development system to create the device’s Windows CE-based applications

Rapid Development Time Supports Fast Delivery to Market

Using Windows CE, Magellan Professional launched the MobileMapper CE on schedule, ensuring that the device arrived in the marketplace during a peak sales period. The organisation’s executives believe using an open or different operating system could have added as much as six months to the development time—drastically increasing the device’s design costs.

Pedersen comments: “By choosing Windows
CE for our latest GIS mobile devices, we gained a development environment to launch products rapidly and cost effectively within tight timeframes so that we retained our competitive advantage. We have seen a 64 percent sales growth of our GIS solutions since the launch of MobileMapper CE.”

Yannick Chammings, Windows Embedded Group Manager at Adeneo, adds, “Magellan Professional made a good choice in Windows CE. It combines the robustness of a strong embedded operating system with ergonomic development tools and rich features, and helps deliver the most advanced mobile technology on the market.”

Lower Development Costs from Built-in Features

The organisation saved development time and costs because of the many advanced tools and out-of-the-box features that come with Windows
CE. For instance, Windows CE provides the infrastructure to quickly develop device drivers for networking peripherals, such as Ethernet, Bluetooth, and wireless, and expansion
peripherals through USB ports. Microsoft operates a shared-source philosophy, which provides customers with greater access to source code while also safeguarding the company’s intellectual property.

Chammings says: “Access to source code really increased the speed of development at the design stages. This is because it gave us the opportunity to go deep into the core system of Windows CE to optimise performances of our BSPs and drivers. Source code access is vital. There is not a week goes by that we don’t check a specific behavior in the operating system to ensure our BSP performs optimally.”

During the development stages, Magellan Professional developers used Platform Builder to customise the environment image and eMbedded Visual C++ to create supporting applications in native code. Comments
Pedersen: “All of the developers said they found that both Platform Builder and eMbedded Visual C++ were intuitive and extremely user-friendly IDEs.”

Peace of Mind Over the Build Quality of New Devices

Microsoft has expertise in developing robust, proven, and accepted operating systems, technologies, and tools. Windows CE has been in the market for 10 years, which gives Magellan Professional peace of mind over the quality of the IT solutions underpinning its family of new, rugged handheld devices for the industrial and professional GIS markets.

Pedersen says: “Microsoft provides the solutions
that support our internal business processes, so we understand the increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness that the vendor’s technology brings to IT environments.
We had no doubt that Microsoft solutions would bring the same kind of efficiency
and cost savings to our mobile devices and that we could rely on the support of Microsoft during our products’ lifecycles.”

Chammings says: “The reliability of a system is linked to BSPs and drivers. The fact that a Windows CE device is a ‘dedicated’ environment,
linked to a strong qualification testing process of the BSP based on a Windows CE testing toolkit, is probably the best warranty to robustness of a Windows CE-based design.”

Widespread Knowledge of User Interface, Excellent Brand Values

A main objective for Magellan Professional was to develop products that reflected the expectations of the wider community for user-friendly interfaces with rich functionality.
By choosing a Windows-based operating system, Magellan Professional gained a value-adding UI that made it instantly accessible to, and valued by, the vast majority of consumers.

The company also takes full advantage of the brand values that consumers associate with Microsoft products. Pedersen explains: “With Windows CE technology, there is the powerful association you get from working with Microsoft. Consumers know that the operating system on their devices will be robust, user friendly, and will support the most advanced applications on the market.”

Superior Support from Third-Party Application Developers

For Magellan Professional, devices such as MobileMapper CE will maintain their competitive edge by delivering the newest global positioning systems (GPS)-related applications on the market. The devices non-proprietary operating system and the superior, cost-effective development tools ensure Windows CE delivers the environment
of choice for third-party developers.

To support the development of device applications
by third parties, Magellan Professional has created a Windows CE software development
kit (SDK) for its solutions. Pedersen says: “The SDK means we can give third-party developers everything they need to build on our environment with minimum cost.”

The flexibility of Windows CE and Magellan Professional’s SDK is attracting key application developers including the Environmental Systems
Research Institute (ESRI) in the United States, one of the world’s leading providers of global information system applications.

Contact Information


One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA, 98052

tele: 425.882.8080
fax: 425.936.7329

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