Clarion Debuts World's First Automobile PC/Stereo

Convergence has come to the automotive market. Clarion Corporation of America announced December 4 that it has developed the the world's first product that integrates car audio, computing functions, navigation, and wireless communications through hands-free voice activation. The Clarion AutoPC is a DIN unit that fits in the dash of an automobile, and is powered by the Microsoft Windows CE operating system.

The new product will be available throughout the US at hundreds of authorized Clarion retailers in January 1999, but early editions of the AutoPC can be seen at several locations in California, Washington, and Oregon, including The Good Guys! San Francisco/Stonestown Galleria store, DOW Stereo & Video's San Diego/Sports Arena store, and Car Toys' North Seattle store.

"Clarion is extremely proud to be the first to bring to market this highly anticipated product that revolutionizes the car-audio as well as computing industries as we know them today," said James Minarik, president and CEO. "The AutoPC will forever change the way we spend time in our cars." AutoPC's advanced voice recognition, he claims, will "help motorists travel more efficiently and safely while having more fun on the road than ever before."

"Microsoft is excited to see Clarion ship the first product based on the AutoPC platform," said Harel Kodesh, Vice President at Microsoft. "This newest member of the PC Companion family uses a version of Windows CE that has been optimized for the car environment."

Clarion's AutoPC is a true convergence product. Its high-powered AM/FM stereo includes integrated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) equalization and a built-in 35W x 4-channel amplifier. It comes standard with Windows CE Hitachi SH3 processor and 16MB DRAM/8MB ROM, an in-dash Clarion CD audio/CD-ROM drive, and supports an optional six-disc CD changer through a Universal Serial Bus (USB).

It also sports a backlit 8-color LCD screen with an icon-driven user interface. An Infrared Data Port connects with other PC Companion devices, such as a Palm-size PC. The Clarion AutoPC recognizes simple voice commands, allowing consumers to do things like select music and retrieve contact information without taking their eyes off the road. Speech-synthesis technology enables the Clarion AutoPC to communicate with the driver by "speaking" the displayed text. Other applications include an address book and voice memo feature. The unit also assists navigation when coupled with an optional Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.

Accessories to be available for the Clarion AutoPC in January 1999 include a cellular phone cradle, a wireless receiver, and a vehicle diagnostic module that enables the AutoPC to receive data from the vehicle's onboard computer system. The basic Clarion AutoPC unit is priced at $1299.