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Microsoft Rolls Out New Windows for Cars


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Oct. 21, 2005 —  In this week's "Cybershake," we take a look at what software giant Microsoft is doing at a major automobile industry trade show in Tokyo. Plus, we note good news for those who are calling customer service lines only to be greeted by a computer system offering no help.

At the Tokyo Motor Show, car makers from around the world have gathered to show off their visions of wheeled transportation — from futuristic concept cars and sleek roadrunners to fuel-sipping wagons. But visitors to the show, which starts this weekend, are also bound to see a lot of technology.

High-tech options, such as satellite navigation systems, wireless communication devices and digital entertainment setups, have already made tremendous inroads into cars. And making them all work seamlessly — and safely — together is something giant Microsoft hopes to accomplish with its latest version of Windows Automotive — desktop computer software designed specifically for the digital electronics being considered by the automotive industry.

For example, one of the troublesome issues Windows Automotive will help car makers (and drivers) figure out is how to make mobile phones easier to manage.

"We're introducing technology that allows you to connect your phone to your car so that you really never have to touch your phone — it could be in your briefcase, it could be in your purse," says Peter Wengert, director for the automotive business unit of Microsoft.. "You just use your voice to dial someone's name or someone's phone number."

Voice control will also play prominently in new entertainment options as well.

"You basically plug your [digital] music player into the car and now it's all hands-free as well," says Wengert. "You can use your voice to play by album, artist, genre or play list, and now your whole digital music library is connected to the car audio system. You can control it using your voice or push buttons on the steering wheel."

Wengert says the new version of Windows Automotive is being unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Show because the adoption of even more advanced high-tech gadgets for cars is happening at a rapid pace.

For example, small flat-panel displays for satellite-based navigation setups and even video entertainment systems are just now being added into some cars. But even better displays are coming soon, says Wengert.

Wengert says some of the on-screen graphics displayed at the Tokyo motor show "are just really intense. They're starting to put real bit-mapped graphics in, like real photographs of intersections and street corners, so when you're driving down [the street], you're seeing 3-D images and real live images."

So how long before you'll see cars using Microsoft's Windows Automotive? It's already happening. Several models from Volvo, Mercedes, BMW and Honda are using versions of the software behind the dashboards.

But that's just the beginning, Microsoft hopes.

"The traditional way we interact with the car will change as we go forward, and it [Windows Automotive] will make it [in-car devices] a lot easier to use and a lot safer to use," says Wengert.

ABC News[

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