REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 4, 1998 — Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system took computing to the road Friday as Clarion Corp. announced availability of the Windows CE-based Clarion AutoPC* on the West Coast at events in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego. The Clarion AutoPC is the first in-car entertainment and information platform on the market that uses the Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system.
The Clarion AutoPC fits into most automobile dashboards, and may look like a souped-up car stereo. It has an eight-color LCD screen on its detachable faceplate. It has a high-powered AM/FM stereo with integrated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) equalization and a built-in 35-watt x 4 channel amplifier. And it has a CD player. But because the Auto PC** uses Windows CE, it also offers much more. Unlike a regular car stereo, the Auto PC CD-player doubles as a CD-ROM drive, allowing users to load applications onto their Auto PC and access things like maps. It also allows users to access their favorite radio station with a simple voice command.
“The Auto PC platform was designed to enable devices to provide convenient access to information where many people – like today’s mobile professionals – spend a lot of time,” said Jonathan Roberts, general manager for Windows CE at Microsoft.
A goal in designing the platform was to build a system that allows drivers to keep their focus where it should be — on driving. Designers found the answer in the use of voice technology. Auto PCs recognize a limited number of spoken phrases and can be “trained” to understand personal commands – code words that drivers can use to switch to their favorite radio stations. This technology gives users accurate voice control over most Auto PC functions. In addition, the Auto PC acknowledges and informs drivers by talking back using computer-generated speech.
“Drivers’ hands stay where they should be in a car — on the wheel, and their eyes stay on the road,” Roberts said.
In addition to stereo functions, the Auto PC comes with an address book for storing personal and business contact information; a navigation system called “Directions” that allows users to map out driving trips; and an IrDA infrared port that lets users exchange data with other Windows CE devices, such as the Handheld PC or Palm-size PC. Because Windows CE platforms are designed to be expandable, users can choose from a variety of add-on options to expand the uses of their Auto PC. These options include CD changers, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), wireless communications, and a cradle that integrates users’ cell phones, letting them automatically dial numbers from their Auto PC address book.
Clarion AutoPC devices will initially be available in limited supply in California, Oregon and Washington, with a suggested retail price of $1,299 for the base units. Clarion plans to make its product available nationwide in early 1999.
* AutoPC is a trademark name for the new product from Clarion
** Auto PC is the name of platform technology developed by Microsoft