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Automotive-Computing Platform Gets Ready To Hit The Road

The creation of Windows CE for Automotive is the first step in Microsoft's .Net initiative. The company has announced its commitment to enabling the development of devices that deliver real-time in-vehicle computing and communications via the Internet. To further this program and attract the business of developers and auto manufacturers, Microsoft has allied with Blaupunkt, an automotive-electronics company.

Research conducted by Strategy Analytics indicates that by 2006, 50% of all new automobiles and 90% of higher-end models will be equipped with real-time data services. Microsoft is marketing Windows CE for Automotive as a platform for many of these real-time data services, also called telematics.

Microsoft envisions devices that aid drivers in navigation, enable better access to roadside assistance, and provide news and traffic updates to save time and improve safety. Access to e-mail and instant messaging is an integral element of the plan. Back-seat entertainment devices are also on the horizon. The company promotes CE for Automotive as a common software platform that effectively transports the home and office computing environments into the automobile. Identical access to e-mail services, messaging services, digital media, and other real-time functions can be achieved in a consistent manner.

As an open operating system, Windows CE for Automotive lets developers use a wide variety of hardware and software components to quickly create powerful in-car computing solutions. Several manufacturers have committed to using the platform to develop products that will be available to consumers as early as 2001. Blaupunkt, a subsidiary of Robert Bosch GmbH, is one such company

Also, a group of Japanese automotive-component manufacturers has formed the Windows CE for Automotive Forum to standardize their development environments on the platform. This group includes Clarion, Denso Corp., Aisin AW Co. Ltd., and Xanavi Informatics Corp. Microsoft emphasizes that adoption of this open platform will mean accelerated development cycles and faster development of an intelligent software platform for telematics applications.

Microsoft says the in-car computing initiative will result in automotive hands-free Internet connectivity with such features as car navigation, personalized content, access to emergency services, and entertainment systems. Larger display-screen support and improved speech recognition will enhance the development of in-car computing devices. Added support for Hitachi SH4 and Intel x86 processors will let devices built on CE for Automotive deliver a quicker and more efficient computing experience as well.

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