An Open Automotive Applications Platform?

Following on from yesterday’s car radio podcasting request, GadgetGuy brought me down to earth with what we could realistically expect in the near future.

While I do not expect car stereo manufacturers to grok podcasting, it would be nice if they offered me an open applications platform on which I could deploy a podcasting aggregator.
In other words, how about we see the same transition that happened in the mobile phone industry? Nowadays I can go into any wireless phone store and pick up a cellphone that has some form of OS on which I can deploy my own software or (more realistically) deploy software from a software vendor. While I do not expect to see Motorola or Nokia offering a podcasting application for their cellphones in the near future, I could certainly envision some opportunities for the third-party software market.

Give me a car stereo with a built-in hard drive, some form of connectivity (Bluetooth would be better than nothing, WiFI would integrate nicely with the home networking environment and hotspots), and an open platform on which I can deploy my own applications.

This sounds like a prime market for Microsoft. A cursory search turns up Microsoft’s Automotive group, with their Windows Automotive platform. From what I can garner from the site, this is based upon Windows CE. According to the site, its goal is:

“… to deliver adaptable, scalable platforms for connected devices that will enable and enhance applications and services offering flexible solutions for customer needs in the automotive industry.”

Sounds great. They also say:

“This technology will enable the industry to give drivers and passengers seamless access to a wide range of Web services as well as smooth functionality among all Windows powered devices.”

Wonderful. With Microsoft’s other relevant investments in the automotive space (Streets and Trips, for example), it looks like a great space in which they could capitalize. A look at the partners list shows some very interesting developments, like the Carman i from Nextech. A question to Mr. Scoble – when am I going to be able to go to my local car electronics/big box store and get one of these things installed? And how open is this platform?

A quick aside – with the recent announcements about Tivo-to-Go, wouldn’t it be a great app to be able to transfer Tivo-ed programs to the Windows media-enabled entertainment system in my car? (For the benefit of the people in the rear seats, of course!)

Aside from Microsoft, I’m curious about other vendors that are making advances in this space. A few years back a company called empeg created a Linux-based in-dash mp3 player. It had an integrated hard drive, and a pretty decent UI. The technology (and team) got acquired by SONICblue, who eventually discontinued the car player division. The team behind that product moved onto other efforts. This technology would have been prime for evolving into a next-gen connected in-car system. Other companies, like PhatNoise, have also made advances in terms of offering HD-based digital media capabilities in the car; it would be interesting to see their product roadmap.

Anyway, I’m going to keep on dreaming about what I’d really like to see in my car. Hopefully in the not-too-distance future I’ll be able to buy a product that takes the first steps towards it.

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One Response to An Open Automotive Applications Platform?

  1. Harry says:

    Maybe Microsoft/Intel should be designing cars, for example with yhe numerous computers in todays car how come no access except at the dealer. Seems I should be able via a IP connection to log into my car engines’ computers and see whats going on.

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