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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 9, 2008 at 3:42 PM

CES: Windows Vista finds a home in the dashboard (updated with pic)

LAS VEGAS — Vista in the dashboard? That’s the thinking of Azentek, a Detroit manufacturer of in-dash computers and other electronics.

Azentek’s European sales rep, Sander Richardot, said the company will sell “tens of thousands” Vista car PCs. He showed me the Atlas CPC-1200, an in-dash Vista Ultimate PC that it will begin selling in April after three years of development.

The company makes a chip to connect the system to controls such as steering-wheel buttons, but the primary way to control the PC is through its 6.5-inch or 7-inch touchscreen, depending on the model. You can also use a standard Bluetooth wireless keyboard, but that might be tricky while you’re driving — and it probably wouldn’t jive with Washington’s new law against texting while driving.

Another nifty feature is the ability to have the system start up when you use a remote entry key to unlock the car, warming up the PC while you get settled in.

Target customers include road warriors who can use voice recognition and commands to do e-mail on the road and families with a lot of kids. The system can stream four separate video streams at once, so everyone can watch a different movie on a different screen.

“We see this product mainly as a time saver to the road warrior, the guy whose on the road a lot. He can work his e-mails by voice, send out orders to his company, send notes to his secretary,'” Richardot explained.

At $2,799, it’s not going to be for everyone. Road warriors may opt to simply open a $1,000 laptop on the passenger seat, for instance. Others wanting a Windows wagon may opt to buy a Ford with the Sync software option, which costs about $300.

But Azentek system is loaded: It has an Intel Core Duo processor, an internal GPS receiver, a digital TV tuner, 7.1 surround sound output, a DVD/CD-RW drive and a 120 gigabyte hybrid flash hard-drive. It connects to the Internet via 802.11b/g or 3G radios.

Sales will be through auto dealers and car stereo installers. Azentek has been talking to auto manufacturers, sales reps told me, but they don’t have any deals to announce yet.

Here’s a near-final version of the system displayed at the show:

dashvista.JPG

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