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Suppliers are looking at new ways to pipe the Internet into the automobile to deliver audio, video, email and more.
Internet radio, Internet video and live mobile TV without a bulky antenna are on display here at International CES from Kenwood, Clarion, Mitek and USTelematics.
Kenwood consumer electronics senior VP Keith Lehmann said high-speed Internet devices in the car "are going to play a very big role, once the infrastructure has been established … one way could be through WiMAX."
Mobile WiMAX, offered by Sprint, is a wireless data service that is faster and cheaper than cellular. It will begin to reach consumers next year, and will be available to 70 million people by the end of 2008, said Sprint. Several companies are planning devices for the car using mobile WiMAX and/or cellular EV-DO, a fast cellular service already widely available to 230 million people.
Some devices will also use Wi-Fi and Kenwood is employing a new service called MPH for digital network TV reception in a prototype tuner for the car.
MPH Mobile TV reception was developed by LG Electronics, Zenith and Harris. The Kenwood tuner would work with car TV screens. Although shown as a prototype, Kenwood may offer the technology commercially in 2009, it said.
Clarion will use either mobile WiMAX or EV-DO plus Wi-Fi in a new mobile computer with a 5.2-inch screen and GPS capability that docks in the car.
The device offers GPS turn-by-turn directions and is expected to be available in the third quarter at a tentative price in the $599 to $699 range.
Clarion's MIND runs on a new Intel processor known as Menlow and it is one of the first "Mobile Internet Devices" (MIDs), which is a new Intel-based class of portable that delivers full Internet access in a pocket-sized device.
"It acts, walks and talks like a personal computer," said a Clarion spokesman.
The device will also offer audio and video capability, instant messaging and email, and it will ship with a car dock.
Wireless access is achieved by Wi-Fi and either 3G cellular or WiMAX. Clarion said it will decide on which of the latter two technologies it will support in the near future. The Linux-based device may also be paired with a Bluetooth phone for Internet access.
It also offers easy access Google Maps, Google Earth, YouTube, MySpace and full Internet browsing.
Mitek and USTelematics are displaying systems that use cellular EV-DO, Wi-Fi and WiMAX. The systems were first demonstrated at the Specialty Electronics Market Association (SEMA) show and a pre-CES event.
Mitek's version streams Internet radio and Internet video to the car and supplies "conversational" voice control search and command. Called Civita, the system is basically a computer hub with four separate ports, which plugs directly into the bus system of a General Motors vehicle and connects to the car's video screen(s). This makes it one of the first aftermarket systems to connect directly to a factory bus system, said Mitek, who added that Civita will work with other car brands in the future.
Civita has a voice-driven search engine that recognizes complex verbal commands, such as "play me something by Frank Sinatra," allowing simple search and control of Internet radio, iPod and other media while driving.
Users can choose from several wireless service plug-in modules including a Wi-Fi/WiMAX module and a cellular EV-DO module.
Civita will be demonstrated at CES with plans for shipping in the first quarter.
USTelematics, Wood Dale, Ill., expects to begin shipping this month a mobile video system called Voyager that receives live Internet video without the need for an outside antenna.
The company is offering several overhead DVD/monitors with built-in computers that use optional mobile WiMAX, EV DO or built-in Wi-Fi modems to connect users to the Internet while driving. It permits streaming video from websites including CinemaNow and Movielink and allows users to download 30 to 40 videos and video games to store in its hard drive. A 10-inch monitor with built-in Wi-Fi and DVD player has a net price of $899 after a $100 rebate. US Telematics said the system permits hundreds of channels of live and stored kid-safe TV and live and stored movies. It has a special filtered interface so kids choose appropriate programming.
The all-in-one overhead monitor comes in 7-, 10- and 12-inch screen sizes. On some models, the upper housing includes a mini computer with 40GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM, 1.2GHz and 1.2GHz processor running Microsoft Windows XP embedded. Users can operate the device as a computer with a wireless keyboard.
The monitor doubles as a Wi-Fi hot spot for the entire car so the passenger in the front can use a laptop with a Wi-Fi card to connect to the Internet
The system will work with Verizon and Sprint cellular EV-DO Rev. A service and Sprint's upcoming WiMAX service. Monthly service charges vary but EV-DO service is free to Verizon voice and data subscribers or it costs $49.95/month to new Verizon subscribers, said USTelematics president and CEO Howard Leventhal.
Audiovox is also showing an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) with GPS navigation capability that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at $1,499 (see PND story).
Alpine said it testing an entertainment/GPS device that is under research and development, which has a high-speed Internet connection.
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.