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Alcatel, Toyota Tout 'Smartphone' Car

Alcatel and Toyota are touting in-car multimedia technology as the future of mobile broadband.

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are touting in-car multimedia technology as the future of mobile broadband.

Working with Toyota and

QNX Software

, Alcatel has built what it describes as an "LTE Connected Car," bristling with a vast array of Internet applications. The 2010 Prius has four touchscreens, two in the dashboard, and two behind the front seats, which offer a wealth of different services.

"We wanted to show what is possible with next-generation mobile networks," Derek Kuhn, vice president of emerging technology, told


during a technology demo Tuesday in New York. The company has even described the tricked-out Prius as a "smartphone on wheels."

Long Term Evolution (LTE)

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, or 4G technology, will expand the speed and capacity of mobile networks when it is deployed over the coming years, and Alcatel claims that a car is the perfect place to showcase its benefits.

With younger consumers, in particular, expecting ubiquitous high-speed Web access, the souped-up Prius offers roughly 50 applications, including a music streaming service from

Atlantic Records

, children's computer games developed by


, and


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YouTube offering.

"We're trying to throw the kitchen sink at this," said Kuhn, explaining that cars present a "captive audience" for content specialists such as


and application developer


. Atlantic Records is already offering its "Fanbase" application in the LTE Connected Car, offering information, interviews and music clips of artists such as Rob Thomas.

The car also offers GPS and in-car WiFi, according to Alcatel, and could even boost safety by sharing information between cars, according to Steve West, Alcatel's senior director for emerging technology.

"If I am in a hazardous situation with ice on the road, the car behind me can be warned before it gets there," he said.

Alcatel, which

swung to a loss

in its recent third-quarter results, says that the driver's touchscreen doesn't work while the car is moving, good news for easily-distracted drivers.

It could be some years, however, before Toyota is actually selling LTE-connected cars. Executives at the New York launch event estimated that the first all-singing and all-dancing cars could make their debut around 2011.

"The whole automotive lifecycle is two to three years from concept to 'on the road,' " said Andy Gryc, product marketing manager for QNX Software, adding that other deals are in the pipeline. "We're not able to say who we're discussing that with

but we're probably speaking to three or four automakers."

The proof of concept car is part of a broader 4G initiative called the ng connect program. The industry group comprises around 26 members and includes the likes of


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Alcatel is not the only company focusing its efforts on automotive technology.


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has also

ramped up


technology story


recent years