Microsoft not to be put off by the wealth of GPS units or online mapping services has launched Microsoft AutoRoute 2006 with a GPS locator option for the UK and Europe.

The all-in-one product combines route planning and navigation in one package and requires no additional upgrades of software or components. The latest version of the product extends AutoRoute's coverage of Europe and includes 865,000 points of interest, including 80,000 in the UK. Route information has been updated to include new roads such as the M6 toll motorway. The software can also estimate journey fuel costs and time, in addition to mileage.

Microsoft is keen to suggest it's better than GPS units, suggesting that unlike in-car navigation systems, Microsoft AutoRoute 2006 offers a detailed map covering 27 European countries, with no need to purchase additional country data. Users can search for hotels, restaurants and other points of interest along their route, as well as facilities such as petrol stations and cash machines.

The company also notes that unlike online sites, Microsoft AutoRoute 2006 allows users to customise maps and add information from other sources. Customers can plot friends and colleagues by importing their Microsoft Outlook address book. And snap routing allows users to immediately re-plot routes by dropping and dragging between additional stop off points or destinations.

Microsoft AutoRoute's advanced GPS Locator hardware makes it easier than ever to turn a laptop into an all-inclusive GPS tracking device. Travellers simply plug-in AutoRoute's USB-ready GPS device to view intuitive and up-to-date maps, and receive real time text or voice-prompted driving directions.

Microsoft AutoRoute 2006 is available in outlets from the 25 October, at a retail price of £44.99 for the software and £149.99 for the software with the GPS locator.