DETROIT -- Microsoft Corp. executives hope the Apple iPod will be good for its new in-car computer, Windows Mobile for Automotive.
Automakers are seeking ways to make it convenient for drivers to bring aboard their portable electronic devices, says Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit. Thall spoke during Microsoft's Global Automotive Summit in Dearborn, Mich., on April 29.
Microsoft believes its computer, which is called TBox, provides part of the answer.
Windows Mobile for Automotive allows iPod owners to plug digital music players into the instrument panel so they can listen to music on the vehicle's stereo system.
Priced at about $200, Microsoft's system is equipped with Bluetooth technology to link to a cell phone for hands-free calling, provide route guidance through voice recognition and connect to the Internet using a cell phone or personal digital assistant. A pricier version of the system offers access to telematics services such as remote vehicle diagnostics and electronic telephone directories.
Thall said the iPod could be the "tipping point" for more automaker interest in in-car computers that link drivers with portable players.
Apple had sold more than 10 million iPods by December.
Microsoft wants to make inroads in North America after landing a major contract with Fiat Auto. Fiat is installing the computer across its model lineup beginning this fall.
Microsoft continues to peddle Windows Mobile for Automotive to other automakers and Tier 1 electronics suppliers.
But Peter Wengert, group marketing manager for Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit in Redmond, Wash., said Microsoft has not landed another contract.
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