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CES: cars get digital makover with MS technology

Hands-free web, phone and music

Microsoft has spoken a lot about the digital home at CES, the International Consumer Electronics Show, this week. But company partners are using Microsoft's software to extend digital connectivity to the car, and some showed their wares in Las Vegas at the annual conference.

Dresser Wayne, a Texas-based company that builds petrol pumps, this week launched a new version of its Ovation iX fuel pump, which uses the Windows CE OS (operating system) to provide an interactive screen that can play adverts and other digital media while drivers pump petrol.

The new version of the pump, called iX2, features a new 15in LCD with touchscreen capability, which allows retailers to add more features to the system than the previous version of the pump, said Dan Harrell, vice-president of global product architecture at Dresser Wayne. Before, the iX had only eight soft keys, which limited retailers' choices in what information could be displayed on the screen, he said.

Two of Dresser Wayne's retail customers using the system's previous version, Sam's Club and Home Depot, use the screens to display adverts for specials in their stores, Harrell said. Retailers also have the option to sell advertising space to other companies and display it on the screens.

The iX2 also features new Bluetooth capability, which can connect wirelessly to a user's mobile phone or another wireless device and allow them to pay for petrol they purchase at the pump instead of swiping a credit card, Harrell said. He demonstrated this capability with the iX2 pump at CES.

Ford also introduced new technology at CES this week. The technology called Sync, which Microsoft chairman Bill Gates featured in his keynote speech, uses Microsoft software to allow hands-free internet connectivity and voice-activated technology for playing music, answering calls and 'reading' text messages.

Ford is putting Sync in 12 models of its cars, beginning later this year, with the goal of giving people who drive practical, non-luxury cars like the Ford Focus a digital system that can help them access their digital devices safely while driving.

Users of Sync can press a 'Push to Talk' button on their steering wheel, say the name of the person they want to call and then talk on calls using their mobile phone without having to dial or pick up the phone. Sync can also convert text messages from mobile phones into audio and read text messages to drivers.

The Ford technology also works with digital music players such as Microsoft's Zune and Apple's iPod, allowing users to browse and play tunes from their music collection by voice-activated commands.


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