The sight of a Windows Mobile logo attached to a device is often the harbinger of frustration and disappointment, if not outright doom. In the case of Blue&Me and Fiat's feisty 500, that remains true to a certain extent. There's plenty of room for improvement in areas like support for mobile phone handsets and iPods, for example.
But it's not the whole story. eco:Drive in particular is a rather delightful little application that is both fun and adds real value. And with Windows Mobile providing the platform, fixing faults and adding functionality over time could become routine.
One obvious aspect missing from all this, of course, is a GPS navigation system. In fact, Fiat does offer an optional sat-nav unit that plugs fairly neatly into a slot on top of the 500's dash. Physically, it's much like an aftermarket unit. However, it integrates wirelessly with the car's Blue&Me system via Bluetooth and therefore behaves more like a built-in system, muting music when directions are relayed and all that jazz. Unfortunately, it was not included with our test vehicle.
It's also worth noting that Blue&Me is not unique. Ford, to take one obvious example, has developed a platform with a very similar on-paper feature set known as Sync. It's also based on Windows Mobile and available as an option on many of the latest Fords from the new Ka hatchback upwards. With any luck, we'll bring you our impressions of Sync in the coming months.
Our broad brush conclusion, therefore, is that the basic approach and feature set Fiat has chosen for Blue&Me is worthy of a firm thumbs up. A few niggles notwithstanding, it's a thoroughly contemporary system that eschews chintzy visual gimmickry in favour of using tried and tested USB, Bluetooth and Windows Mobile technology to provide real utility and upgradeability. We'll certainly be watching with interest as Fiat develops and improves Blue&Me.