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CES 2011: Pioneer Takes Pandora Mainstream, Adds Apple App Mode

1/05/2011 02:04:00 PM Eastern

Las Vegas - Internet
radio services and Apple's iPods and iPhones are playing key roles in the 2011
product plans of Pioneer's car electronics division.

 Pioneer's $1,200-suggested AVIC-Z130BT A/V-navigation head unit features Pandora control, Aha Radio control and HD Radio with iTunes tagging.

The division came to CES to expand its
selection of head units that control an iPhone's Pandora app to nine models
from two at much more affordable prices starting at a suggested $150. The
division also launched its first GPS cradle for iPhones and iPod Touches and
launched its first seven head units with App Mode, which enables head units with
larger displays to play the video of USB-connected iPhone and iPod Touch apps
with Apple's iPod Out feature enabled, said marketing director Ted Cardenas.
The head units play video only when the parking brake is on.

App Mode appears
in two mech-less "digital media receiver" head units at a suggested $270 and
$330, three A/V receivers priced from $450 to $700, and the company's two 2011
A/V-navigation heads at $800 and $1,200.

As for Internet
radio, the company launched its first Pandora-controlling head units last year in
two A/V-navigation units at a suggested $1,599 and $1,099. This year, the
feature will appear throughout the company's line from two low-priced CD receivers
starting at a suggested $150 to the two new navigation units priced up to
$1,200.

Besides expanding
Pandora control, the division is also bringing another Internet radio service
-- Aha Radio -- to its lineup for the first time. Control of Aha's iPhone app appears
in the company's two new navigation systems to deliver audible versions of
Facebook and Twitter, podcast streams, audible reports of nearby traffic
conditions, and ability to hear nearby points-of-interest (POI) information.

For vehicles
without navigation systems, the company is launching the GPS-equipped Smart
Cradle, which improves the accuracy of an iPhone's GPS-enabled location-based
services and navigation apps. The cradle features an embedded GPS receiver
that's more sensitive than an iPhone's GPS chip, and it comes with external GPS
antenna. Combined with a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope to track speed
and direction, the cradle enables an iPhone's navigation app to stay in touch
with GPS satellites in weak-signal areas and show the vehicle's true position
when buildings or tunnels block GPS reception, said Karen Rubin, director of
product planning for navigation.

 The cradle also features embedded amplified
speaker, hands-free Bluetooth, ability to rotate the Apple device into portrait
or landscape mode, and A/V output to display the device's video on OEM or
aftermarket displays. Pricing and availability weren't announced.

In other line
changes, the company is:

-- adopting Clear
Channel's RDS-delivered Total Traffic Network (TTN) traffic information service
in its two A/V-navigation units to replace MSN Direct, which Microsoft is turning off
on Jan. 1, 2012.

--expanding
embedded HD Radio to three models from two at prices starting at around $150 from
$200. One of the three is the company's first A/V-navigation unit with embedded
HD Radio. Two of the three feature iTunes tagging, though all have iPod USB
inputs.

--bringing down
the opening price of head units with iPod USB inputs to $100 from $130 but not
expanding the selection of heads with the feature.

--expanding its
selection of head units with stereo Bluetooth and Bluetooth AVRCP (audio video
remote control profile) to an additional SKU. The two Bluetooth features enable
the head units to stream music from smartphones and control limited functions
of smartphone apps if the smartphones are also equipped with stereo Bluetooth
and AVRCP.

The company is
also demonstrating its Network Vision Heads Up Display concept, which projects
the display of a linked smartphone onto the driver's side windshield to display
such items as caller ID and navigation directions.

In other changes,
the company said it is improving its touch slide feature on A/V receivers and
navigation systems. The interface reduces the need for multiple layers of menus
to quickly navigate the user interface by touching and dragging the text on the
screen. This feature lets users navigate through large media lists and search
and sort by artist, album, song and genre.

The company is
also launching new speakers and a subwoofer.

 Pioneer has no plans this year to adopt Sirius
XM's new universal black-box satellite-radio tuner, Cardenas said. The company
also isn't launching head units with dual iPod-USB ports.

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