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iPod Roadie

Shifting into (MP)3rd gear.

A year ago, James Geier didn't own an iPod. "But I've got plenty now," he says. That's because Geier, a manager of accessory engineering and testing at BMW North America, was called on to create the first integrated car adapter for Apple's popular MP3 player.

Previous iPod automotive interfaces involved cassette-deck adapters or FM broadcast gizmos, "but you still had to lean over, squint at the display, and press buttons while you were driving," explains Geier. "We wanted to eliminate driver distraction." The result: a glove-box-mounted adapter cable with controls on the steering wheel. Sounds simple, but it required system compatibility, vehicle testing, and an intense schedule. "The iPod is hot, and we didn't want things to drag out until the next hot product came along. So we had to create this in six months."

What's on Geier's iPod? "A little of everything," he says. "Pink Floyd, Metallica, classical. It's a bit of what I like to listen to and a bit of engineering — I'm always checking for ID3 tags that might try to trick our adapter. Business is always on my mind."

A version of this article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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