From our viewpoint here at CES, it looks like automotive electronics manufacturers want nothing more than to fill that gaping hole where your 8-track once was with anything but an 8-track.

So far, Pioneer, Eclipse, TomTom, and even Microsoft are among those introducing all-in-one navigation-giving, MP3-playing, iPod-connecting, Bluetooth-equipped, satellite radio-lovin', in-car entertainment systems. All are the same, in that they take a bunch of those gadgets off the top of your dash and squash 'em into a box in the dash.

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates gave his 10th keynote address at CES Sunday night, where he talked about Vista and how it would unify communication in and outside the home. Your car too. Ford's Executive Vice President Mark Fields flew in from Detroit to join Gates in announcing Sync to a huge CES crowd. Gates started the Sync introduction by saying Microsoft wants to give drivers a safer, "single command" automotive interface that combines all elements of vehicle electronics.

Fields said Sync would be available on a dozen models of early 2008 Fords, Lincolns and Mercurys, including the Edge and the new Focus. Sync will bring together man, machine, mp3 player and mobile phone, allowing drivers to integrate all those devices with their cars. Sync will download, via Bluetooth, all address books and personal ringtones from mobile phones. The system can even be set up to read text messages to drivers, and will translate shorthand like LOL and emoticons. Somehow. But we don't see how that could be a good thing. Remember the loathed talking cars of the 80s? Ugh.

Descriptions of Pioneer's and Eclipe's all-in-ones, and a few more CES keynote photos after the jump.

The Eclipse AVN2210p puts GPS, Bluetooth, CD, MP3-player connectivity, Sirius, XM and Internet capability in their in-dash unit, but then give you the ability to load your 'Pods straight from space using TomTom's mobile Internet service. Set the 2210 to fetch "War and Peace" while driving, then, use the device's navigation to drive to your family reunion. Once there, dump the novel to your 'Pod and crazy Uncle Teddy is no longer an issue.

The 2210 goes one step further, giving you the option of not only having navigation in your ride, but also in your pocket. The TomTom GPS disconnects from the head unit to give full, touchscreen GPS usability in the palm of your hand. Useful, perhaps, when you need an escape route from the previously mentioned reunion.

Eclipse says their AVN2210P will go on sale this spring by your usual electronic retail suspects for a targeted retail price of $899. Professional installation will probably push that price closer to the budget of some smaller South American nations, but still remains cheaper than some factory-installed options.





Pioneer's AVIC-Z2 has iPod compatibility, Bluetooth connections to mobile phones, a CD player and some other cool things. But it's neatest trick is how it studies how you drive. And we all know how you drive. Seriously. But the AVIC-Z2 can learn your driving habits and learn your favorite routes. Next time you ask for directions, based on your history of choices (bad or good), the Z2 suggests the roads it thinks you'll like. And, as far as we know, it doesn't "suggest" them the way your spouse does. "Honey, regardless what you THINK you shoud do, I SUGGEST you take the next right."



More Bill Gates keynote speech photos:




Bill practices some road racing in his on-stage bedroom. Then CANNOT drive, by the way.


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