I posted a reply to similar question on another sailing forum.
The issue is not so much in new vs. old software, but in existence or lack thereof of a standard.
Many modern GPS devices come with hardware that connects them to a USB port of your computer. However, USB is only a "physical" interface - it does not define how or what data is sent to the computer over the wire. As such, manufacturers come up with their own proprietary protocols of sending the data over USB. That means that, in general, the only way for software to talk directly to the device over USB is to either be from the same manufacturer, or to share in the knowledge of the proprietary protocol.
At the same time, many (though no longer all) manufacturers are willing to support "other" software (for which we should thank them, I suppose - it could have been worse). Since there is no other standard, generally speaking NMEA 0183
is it. NMEA 0183
is a text protocol and, officially works over a serial communications
port. So, COM port is no longer a physical necessity, but it becomes a kind of an "interoperability standard". Device manufacturers usually provide a utility or a driver, that will create a virtual COM port on the system and present device data on that COM port in NMEA
Hence, generally speaking, each USB based device requires a separate and unique USB to serial port driver.