December 27, 2000 4:15 PM PST

Dashboard device to unite cell phone, Palm handheld

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In a move that could get drivers' eyes back on the road, Palm and Delphi Automotive Systems plan next month to show off a dashboard device that allows people to use voice commands to call anyone in their handheld's address book.

The Communiport Mobile Productivity Center will allow drivers to retrieve information from their Palm V or Vx handhelds and then make calls via certain Ericsson cell phones--all without lifting a finger.

Delphi, the car parts giant, plans to show off the unit and announce more details, such as pricing, on Jan. 6 at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

This fall, Delphi and Palm invested in a start-up called MobileAria, which plans by mid-2001 to offer Internet content and email access using Delphi's dashboard device.

Palm is far from the only tech company with its eye on the auto market.

In the fall, Sun Microsystems announced a deal with General Motors' OnStar unit to try to make Java technology the computing standard for the automotive industry. Microsoft has its Windows CE for Automotive operating system, as well as a Car.Net initiative aimed at creating a common language for cell phones, handhelds and dashboard computers.

IBM and Intel, too, have announced plans to collaborate on a nonproprietary standard for dashboard "telematics," a term for cellular and Internet services in vehicles such as navigation systems, roadside assistance and entertainment.

Future generations of the Delphi unit may also include a built-in global positioning system (GPS) chip, allowing services targeted to a driver's location.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, Delphi also plans to show off an entertainment system that allows passengers in the back seat of a car to play DVDs or CDs, or plug in their own video game consoles. The unit, which will be launched in February, is designed to fit in most cars and trucks, even those with rather cramped back seats.

Delphi will also demonstrate the use of a wireless networking standard called 802.11 for downloading compressed digital video and audio.


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