New Windows Automotive Release On Tap

Microsoft is preparing to launch the next version of its Windows Automotive platform on March 26.

Microsoft will take the wraps off its new system at the Microsoft Automotive Executive Summit in Dearborn, Mich., company officials say. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will likely handle the unveiling honors.

Microsoft is expected to follow up with similar launches in Europe and Asia during the third week in April.

Windows Automotive is not designed to power cars. Instead, it controls less mission-critical functions, like navigation, on-board e-mail, audio/visual entertainment and the like.

Microsoft has deals with seven auto manufacturers, plus a few after-market companies who build sub-systems such as deluxe car entertainment systems, to embed Windows Automotive.

Windows Automotive is a platform that has undergone a couple of name changes since Microsoft first launched it in 1998. (It originally was known as "AutoPC," and later as "CE for Automotive.) The platform is the base upon which Microsoft is building its complete "Connected Car" strategy.

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