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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Shuttle develops XPC-based car information system

From Digitimes:
Taiwan-based small-form-factor (SFF) PC specialist Shuttle appeared at the first standalone CarTronics show this weekend at the Taipei World Trade Center (TWTC), introducing its new R&D project, which targets the car-electronics market. This year, the company plans to invest about US$2 million in developments of car-use information systems based on its well-known XPC concept, according to Ken Huang, Shuttle vice president of systems development.

Shuttle's contribution to this year's CarTronics is represented by a luxurious Mercedes S-Class sedan equipped with a prototype of the XPC-based car-use information system. Placed between two rear seats, Shuttle's XPC SN21G5 mini PC performs as a key part of the system that functions as a platform for applications, such as GPS-based navigation, voice control and entertainment services. It also enables communications via Skype, MSN and other software, using 3G wireless modem technology, and in the future, Shuttle's car PCs will support WiMax, Huang said.

The prototype at CarTronics includes AMD's Athlon 64 3700+ CPU, 1GB of DDR DRAM and a non-standard power supply unit to support 12V DC power supply in vehicles. It runs on the Windows XP Professional operating system (OS), with the SP2 service pack and voice recognition engine installed, but later on, Shuttle's car-use PCs will utilize the upcoming Windows Vista OS, according to Huang. In addition to the mini PC, the system includes three LCD monitors (two in front of back-seat passengers and one as a part of driver's dashboard) and four webcams. Its audio subsystem consists of two subwoofers, thirteen speakers and four microphones. Input devices are represented by two keyboards, which are mounted into driver and front-passenger visors, and one trackball. Optional units can be added using USB ports of the mini PC, while a printer, as displayed at the show, can be placed in the rear cargo area.

Shuttle's partner to showcase the car-PC concept at CarTronics is Taiwan-based Alsolox, which is focused on car-security solutions. According to Huang, the two companies recently started working together on the project. He added that Shuttle will likely begin more actively promoting its car-PC solutions by the fourth quarter of this year, targeting car dealers in Taiwan at the initial stage. Then, the company will approach car vendors and expand the business to overseas markets. According to Huang, Shuttle currently expects that car-PC solutions may start generating sales next year.


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