Drive-By Computing: Dawn of the Dashboard Desktop

SAN FRANCISCO (03/21/2000) - Car PCs will give new meaning to the concept of mobile computing. In-dash stereos with CPUs and other PC features are expected this summer at high-end auto accessory stores (and car dealers) near you. The pricey systems obey voice commands for hands-free cell-phone dialing, reading e-mail, retrieving driving directions, and more. Bare-bones models like Clarion Corp.'s AutoPC 310C begin at $1299.

First Look

An optional detached microphone accepts voice commands. When used with the $399 cradle and one of five supported Nokia Corp. cell phones, it permits hands-free radio and CD-player control and cell-phone conversations.

Clarion's AutoPC 310C runs Windows CE for Auto PC 1.0. You can access its CD-ROM drive by pushing the faceplate down and forward. Use the Alpha Touch control (A)--a cross between a trackball and a mouse--to move between menus and choices. Enter contact information from your Windows CE handheld via the infrared port (B). An eight-color, 255-by-50-pixel TFT display shows maps, traffic advisories, contact data, CD information, and more.

When equipped with a separate GPS module ($250) and NavTec mapping CD-ROM ($170 for first U.S. region, $100 each for others), AutoPC will provide directions and a map.

Clarion AutoPC 310C

Street price: $1299


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