New Car Computers Debut at SEMA

By Amy Gilroy On Nov 20 2006 - 8:00am

Car computers that double as entertainment devices have yet to gain a big consumer following, but every year new devices are unveiled by suppliers hoping to create a niche market.

Jensen offers a NAVDINPC and Vizualogic recently debuted a VMOD rear-seat entertainment/ car computer. KVH is also now shipping a TracNet 100 Internet appliance.

Until now, car computers have remained high-priced items and many have met with less-than-stellar success. Products that have come and gone include Clarion's Auto PC and the Q-PC line.

Alpine said that it does not expect to offer a full-fledged car PC, but noted the market continues to import some aspects of a PC, such as navigation.

At the recent Specialty Equipment Manufacturer's Association (SEMA) show, two companies displayed car computers, including Azentek, a Grand Blanc, Mich.-based company, which is partnering with Microsoft and Vea Link, a car "systems integrator" based in Los Angeles.

Azentek introduced a prototype double DIN PC called Atlas that it hopes will go into production in the first quarter of 2007. At an expected suggested retail of $1,995, the Atlas has touch screen "buttons" for navigation, car performance, digital radio, a media player and AM/FM/CD/DVD. It also offers the ability to browse the Internet, access e-mail and perform PowerPoint presentations when the car is stopped. It has a Bluetooth keyboard and runs Windows Vista.

Vea Link, a two-year-old company, showed at SEMA a car with four CPUs in the trunk and screens in the headrests, one in the dash, one on the front visor and a 12-inch drop-down overhead. At $2,600 per system, each user gets a 40GB hard drive and 1.2 GHz processor with 512MB of RAM (monitors not included). The systems use Windows XP home edition and also use Vea Link's custom software for the user interface. Each unit comes with a wireless keyboard, high-speed Verizon cellular access and each is Bluetooth compatible for phone integration.

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