Web Access in the Palm of Your Car

Auto maker General Motors Corp. has been building its proprietary OnStar communications system into its cars for some time now. But now a new start-up company plans to develop an open-service, voice-activated platform that will work in any car and that will integrate handheld computers and mobile phones to allow people to access personalized information and Internet content.

The new company, MobileAria Inc., is a joint venture created by Palm Inc., Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. and the Mayfield Fund.

Quoting statistics from analyst group USB Warburg LLC, Tom O’Gara, co-founder of MobileAria, says the estimated market size for in-vehicle communications will grow to about US$26 billion by 2005.

The initial subscription-based service will be offered using Delphi’s Communiport Mobile Productivity Center, an Ericsson mobile phone and a Palm V handheld. The Palm slides into a stand that is integrated into the car’s cigarette lighter, for power, and the car’s radio, which provides audio playback on an unused radio station. Eventually, other mobile phones and handheld computers will be compatible with the platform.

Voice-activated access and management of personalized content, such as calendars, e-mail and address books, will help make North Americans more productive during the many hours they spend in their cars, O’Gara says.

The platform also will be able to synchronize the Palm device with the user’s desktop PC and access general information, including news, weather, stock quotes, flight information, directions and traffic information. Eventually, MobileAria intends to provide enhanced multimedia content.

MobileAria expects to launch the initial in-vehicle platform and subscription service in the United States during the second quarter of 2001. Officials say it will be possible to integrate the system into any car, including those already on the road.

Visit www.mobilearia.com.