By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Azentek will deliver what it claims is the first all-in-one full-function in-dash computer this spring.
Although in-car computers have left a wake of failures in the past (Clarion's AutoPC and computers from QPC and TRC), Azentek, based in Grand Blanc, Mich., said the time for in-car computing may be at hand. Partner development director Derek Prentice said, "I think the timing and technology and the user's comfort with computers is aligning at the right time. Users are more capable and used to using Windows ... The majority have mobile phones and smartphones, so the technology isn't so scary. On our side, the technology has gotten much better in terms of withstanding the automotive environment."
Originally shown last year, two Azentek computers have been refined and will now ship in March/April. Two additional models at lower price points have also been added.
The company's Atlas CPC-1200 has an Intel Core Duo processor and runs the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system in a double-DIN all-in-one-chassis with a 6.5-inch screen. It has built-in Wi-Fi, AM/FM/satellite radio, HD Radio, CD-RW/DVD/MP3/WMA, GPS navigation and stereo Bluetooth at a suggested retail of $2,799. A single-DIN version will be available with a 7-inch screen at the same price.
The computer function is locked while the vehicle is in motion, but when the car stops, it allows full access for checking email and Internet browsing. Through a software upgrade in the second half, however, the system will use voice control to read email to the user. The driver could reply in recorded WAV files that would be sent back as email attachments.
To achieve a cellular connection to the Internet, users can pair Bluetooth phones with the device or use a USB or PC card modem.
Atlas offers a CANbus connection to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler vehicles and it will be able to connect to other car networks in the future. The company hopes to work with car companies to give consumers car diagnostic information. When an engine light comes on, users could determine the cause, said Prentice.
Azentek is working with manufacturer reps to sell the computers through "higher-end" 12-volt car audio dealers, said Prentice. "If someone wants to have the ultimate in-vehicle experience, this is the next phase where car infotainment is going," he added.
Two budget in-dash computers will also be available running Windows CE at $999, including the double-DIN Venus CE-1200 with 6.5-inch monitor and the single-DIN Titan CE-1100 with 7-inch monitor. They are A/V-navigation DVD receivers with features similar to a Pocket PC or Windows Smartphone. They offer touchscreen navigation and Internet connectivity including email and Web browsing, business applications and the ability to install third-party CE-based software.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.