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HEARD ON THE BEAT / IN ORANGE COUNTY

Microsoft and Clarion Finally Launch a Car PC

December 14, 1998|P.J. HUFFSTUTTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After months of delay because of technical testing, Microsoft Corp. and Clarion Corp. last week finally launched the Auto PC, a voice-controlled device that integrates computing processes with a car stereo.

Built to fit into a standard radio slot in the dashboard, the Auto PC allows drivers to control a digital radio, a CD player, a cellular phone and a navigation system. It also taps into voice synthesis to read incoming e-mail, traffic reports and a person's personal phone directory.

The Auto PC also lets users swap data with any infrared-capable computer device, such as hand-held organizers including the Palm Pilot.

The $1,299 machine, based on Intel Corp.'s microprocessors and Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, was unveiled in January. Billed as a way to help motorists travel more efficiently and safely, the device was also an opportunity for Microsoft and Intel to move into new markets for non-PC computing devices.

Developed by Irvine-based Clarion Advanced Technology, the Auto PC is being sold in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego. Microsoft says it will launch the device nationwide in early January, most likely as an aftermarket option for high-end automobiles.

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P.J. Huffstutter covers high technology for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com.

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