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Car adapters keep iPod rocking

One device, from Clarion, lets drivers control their iPods using a 7-inch touch screen monitor.

iPod music players are getting out on the highway, thanks to the efforts of car stereo makers.

Pioneer and Clarion, for example, are discussing plans to make a direct connection between Apple Computer's iPod and car stereo systems at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The iPod, which can store thousands of songs, is the top-selling portable music player.

The idea of giving iPod owners yet another venue for playing their tunes, by connecting the music player to cars' stereos, isn't new. A number of currently available adapters, starting at as little as $20, mimic cassettes or use FM radio transmitters to allow drivers to access their iPods' tunes. BMW now builds several car models whose steering wheels incorporate iPod controls, and the automaker also offers a $149 iPod-stereo adapter, available for several BMW models, that lets users control the device through the steering wheel.

The adapters from Alpine, Pioneer and Clarion will allow iPod owners to wire their music players directly to their car stereos and to use the stereos' controls to access and play the iPod-stored music. The audio companies join the likes of Multi Technology Equipment, whose Ipod2Car adapter is designed to connect the music player and a number of car stereos.

"Portable digital music players like the iPod are no longer a passing trend but are part of the digital lifestyle," Michael Townsen, director of marketing for mobile entertainment at Pioneer Electronics, said in a statement. "Consumers love their iPod music, and they want to take it with them everywhere, including the car."

Pioneer said its CD-IB100 adapter, announced at the CES show, will allow iPod and iPod Mini owners to connect to and operate their iPods via the controls of numerous Pioneer car stereos. The stereos will be able to display up to eight characters of text, showing details such as album, artist or song names, and will also charge the iPod's battery, Pioneer said in a statement.

The adapter, which has a suggested price of $140, will be available in March, according to Pioneer. It will be paired up with more than 3 million Pioneer stereos sold over the past few years, the company said.

Alpine's KCA-420i adapter, which costs about $100 and is available now, offers similar features, including the ability to control iPod and iPod Mini players via several Alpine-brand stereos.

Clarion is taking a somewhat more grandiose approach. Its VRX755VD in-dash DVD player combines a 7-inch touch screen monitor with iPod controls.

Scheduled to hit the market next month, the VRX755VD will mimic the iPod's controls on the 7-inch screen, Clarion said in a statement, allowing operators to call up tunes. It will also display playlists and other information.

Clarion did not offer pricing for the VRX755VD. Similar systems, such as its VRX745VD, sell for about $1,400.

Clarion also plans to release an adapter that's compatible with a number of its CD receivers and in-dash DVD players that have monitors during the middle of 2005, the company said in a statement.