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Monday, November 06, 2006

Web access in cars


PCs are about to start showing up in vehicles, they will let people check e-mail Get the Facts on BlackBerry Business Solutions, avoid traffic jams or make restaurant reservations via the Web while on the job or at play A September survey found that 14 percent of prospective buyers under 30 want in-car e-mail and Web access, more than double the number who said they wanted it in 2004, says CNW Marketing Research. PC on the go

"We're going to see a lot of explosive changes," predicts Robert Wray, CEO of StreetDeck, a maker of mobile commuting software.

Automotive PCs will connect through regular cellular phone signals. Makers expect the in-car systems to eventually move to WiMax -- high-powered WiFi that blankets broadband access across cities -- over the next few years.

Companies putting PCs on wheels are:

  • Ford Motor F-Series pickups can now be equipped with FordLink, which went on sale in September, as a US$2,999 option. The PC is aimed at contractors who want to order building materials or send e-mail from the cab.

A rugged PC fits into a cradle in front of the dash. The PC, which runs Microsoft's XP software, can play Internet radio and MP3 music files.

  • KVH Industries. The TracNet 100 system, introduced in September, displays Web pages on a vehicle's navigation and video screens and creates a wireless connection in the car. The cost is about $2,000 for the hardware and $79 monthly for the connection.

Web access in vehicles "is going to be as common as cell phones," predicts Ian Palmer, executive vice president of KVH.

  • Microsoft and Azentek. The software giant, working with hardware maker Azentek, will offer consumers a choice of two small PCs next year.

One is a small portable, a little bigger than a Cracker Jack box, that can be carried around and temporarily popped into the dash where the stereo is located. The other, a more powerful model, is installed in the dash. Prices for both will be upward of $2,000.

Drivers will need to exercise safety. They won't be allowed to view their e-mail and other distracting functions unless the car is stopped. But that problem is being solved as voice-command systems become more widespread.

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