Up Next, The Subaru App Store

from the click-click-vroom dept

Mobile-phone makers and operators are falling over themselves trying to launch their own application storefronts following the success of Apple's iPhone App Store. But they're not the only ones: Hughes Telematics, which makes in-car communications and computing systems, says the next generation of its technology, scheduled for release in 2010, will let people install apps in their cars. Ideas being kicked around now include a carbon-footprint calculator and remote-starting and monitoring software. There are lots of interesting possibilities here, but there's one stumbling block: most cars don't come with any ability to connect to the internet, making distribution difficult and limiting the apps' utility. Solving that issue would be huge, and open up a enormous opportunity for all sorts of new apps and features: streaming audio, traffic information, in-car music downloads and so on. Just as other platforms like mobile phones and computers have benefited from the addition of mobile data connectivity, so too will cars.


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  1.  
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    SevenSeptember, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 2:08am

    Looking Forward...

    ...I feel like I did when I first heard about CD players that could play mp3 files from a disc. I remember saying, "Sweet Lord! Instead of twenty songs at a shot, I could pack ten whole albums!" I remember being giddy at the possibility of putting an artist's entire discography on a single CD-R.

    I'm getting a touch of this same sentiment as I read various visions of next-gen car audio. It will be interesting to see whether the cell companies can stop sodomizing us long enough to roll out 4G / WiMax, or whether Google and other white space initiative sympathizers will be able to leapfrog them and get white space internet service and hardware on the street.

    Not that I really care which technology wins out...I just know that, for me, the Holy Grail of Car Audio would be thumping stuff from lala, Slacker, and Pandora while I'm flying down the interstate. As a police officer, though, I'm fearful of the day sixteen year old girls and boys are streaming video of boy bands and porn, respectively, into their vehicles. Fearful, indeed.

     

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  2.  
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    Andrew, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 2:21am

    App stores in cars? I got that already ..

    'Solving that issue would be huge, and open up a enormous opportunity for all sorts of new apps and features: streaming audio, traffic information, in-car music downloads and so on.'

    For several years now I've taken my Windows Mobile smartphone, or (lately) my iPhone into my car - connected it to my stereo auxiliary port, mounted it on my dashboard - and hey presto I am easily able to get streaming audio from internet radio stations (anywhere I have network coverage - who needs satellite radio?), traffic information linked to my GPS navigation software, in-car music downloads (if I havent already organised for my phone to have all my music and podcasts pre-loaded before I left my house), plus plenty of other useful stuff such as weather info and useful location-based services.

    It wouldnt be too difficult for someone to create a nice head-up display to project onto my windscreen via Bluetooth or WiFi - I could also link to other screens in the car seats for kids to watch in the back seat (probably these things are already available).

    Why would I need to set up a separate communications unit (perhaps with different incompatible software) for my car when I can already get everything I need by docking my smartphone ??

     

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  3.  
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    Tony Adams, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 3:00am

    Mobile internet access not so hard to do

    "...but there's one stumbling block: most cars don't come with any ability to connect to the internet, making distribution difficult and limiting the apps' utility. Solving that issue would be huge..."

    My laptop can pair with my mobile phone via Bluetooth and use it's data plan for network access. It's hard to imagine why that would be so difficult for a system in the car to do. Issue solved.

     

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  4.  
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    the bad jokes department, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 3:45am

    "Hughes Telematics, which makes in-car communications and computing systems, says the next generation of its technology, scheduled for release in 2010, will let people install apps in their cars."

    viruses taking over cars computer system making drivers loose control of there vehicles.

     

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  5.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Feb 16th, 2009 @ 5:40am

    How long until

    So how long will it be until politicians want to ban this too beacuse it is a driving distraction?
    Downloading apps while driving.

     

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  6.  
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    y8, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 5:52am

    car connection

    There are plenty of 'plans' to make car based wi-fi available. As some mentioned, you can use your smart phone to access the Internet almost anywhere already. There are car radios that can download music to a hard disk either from the radio, or while parked in your garage with access to your home wi-fi. There are plans to add wi-fi along highways (like the Boston/New York/Philly/Washington corridor. There are also plans to make wi-fi available at highway rest stops.

    The plans abound. It's just up to the innovators to figure out how to pay for them. Waiting for the government to do it is a REALLY bad idea, 'cause you know they'll only screw it up.

    There are even companies that are making wi-fi routers (some specifically for your car) that you plug your pcmcia wireless card into and it provides Internet access to all who know the password.

    As the 1st comment said, the other shoe will drop when we see how it's regulated for driver distraction. Unfortunately, there are too many people who are too stupid to understand they are risking other's lives when they blather on incessantly on their cell phone driving with one hand and half a brain.

     

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  7.  
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    Jesse, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 6:55am

    Next thing you know you car gets a virus and it starts driving independently non-stop to Russia.

     

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  8.  
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    Matt, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    devices that use 3G for internet

    I seem to recall there was an in-dash audio streamer for cars that used 3g to stream internet radio to the car. So I don't doubt that it should be pretty easy to put something that can access 3g in the car. There are privacy issues with that among other things, however.

     

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  9.  
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    andBeans, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    The viruses also make poster LOSE control of THEIR grammar.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Lock In

    Yeah, I can see where this is going. Just like Apple will only let you run apps from their own store on the iPhone, auto makers will be in the position to only let you play music and run apps that you buy from them. And don't even think about trying to jailbreak your car's system if you don't want the FBI SWAT team busting your door down and hauling you away. That's part of what the new "intellectual property" division at the Justice Department is all about.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Lock In

    As a follow up, what if your 3 favorite bands are signed with 3 different automakers? No problem, just buy 3 cars! At least, that's probably the way the auto makers see it.

     

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  12.  
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    Crapknocker, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 11:23am

    Where

    I'd personally like to see a car with a built-in HDD and a built-in wireless that you can both put mp3's on and download apps. You could connect it to your home wireless network or via hotspots at the dealership or other places (wifi in McDonalds, etc). I'm somewhat surprised that automakers aren't pushing something like this already, given the rather disturbing lack of innovation in the auto industry (in the U.S. at least). How much would it really add to the cost of a car for a linux-powered dashtop computer? You can already buy super-cheap laptops for under $300 and that doesn't even take into account the economies of scale for the auto industry!

     

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  13.  
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    Sos, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    Everything in this post...

    ...has already been invented

    http://www.in-carpc.co.uk/internet.htm

     

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  14.  
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    SevenSeptember, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 2:53pm

    Re: Where

    Ah, but that's the rub. When you can't sell cars, there are no economies of scale.

     

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  15.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 2:17am

    Cars Are Getting Connected

    Carlo,

    At CES this year, I saw a number of solutions for bringing Internet into cars. Naturally, the markets they are starting with are RVs, long-haul truckers, real estate agents, and other people who spend a lot of time, or work from their vehicles.

    I personally do the hacks/cell phone kludges some have described above, and to answer them: these won't become too popular because they are somewhat complicated, and the mass market demands simplicity. Also, using your phone as a modem for your car means it is not the car that is connected, it is YOU. That's fine, but it is a distinction.

    I also have a 4G data card, which I use during travel and meetings. I use it in conjunction with a Cradlepoint 3G -> WiFi router to share Internet during some meetings. When not in use, I have occasionally plugged it into the 12V plug at the back of my car, and created a mobile hotspot in the car. I do it because I'm a geek - without the apps discussed in the post, it's not all that useful. But it was easy, and doing this, users can get the Internet in the car, but also pull out the 3G dongle and take it with them. Cool.

    BTW, I'm at MWC in Barcelona right now, and there are a heck of a lot of new models of 3G -> WiFi bridging routers on display. Novatel has a beauty, very small and fast, that they were demonstrating. Any of these could take Internet to a vehicle.

    Last name to drop is Autonet. They were at CES showing a single-unit that combines 3G radio and Wifi router. This would be no different than the dozens of 3G -> Wifi bridge routers I am seeing here at MWC, except Autonet has also put together a business model specifically targeting the automotive market in the US.

    Unlike Verizon or AT&T, which want to charge you $60/mo for a mobile data account (5GB cap), Autonet understands that Internet that is limited to your car is worth less. As such, they operate as a MVNO on Verizon's EV-DO network, and charge $30/mo. Even if you think that is too much for a car Internet connection, you must agree that a 50% price drop is moving the right direction. You never see the brand Verizon, and deal exclusively for Autonet.

    My take is that talk of "connected cars" may seem like the future, but we're talking about the future as in "the next couple of years". Don't go build a demo in Tomorrowland, because it's not that far off.

     

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  16.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 3:05pm

    Internet apps in autos

    I both agree and disagree. Mobile phones work in cars, and while there is a reasonable question about allowing people to use mobile phones in cars for talking, I see no reason for restricting them from interfacing with the internet, at least, for fairly low bit-rate specialized applications.

     

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  17.  
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    tom, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Cell Phone as Modem

    hi,
    interesting article. an app store in cars would certainly liven up the daily commute! i think chip-sets to make hard drive based navigation systems into mini computers (auto netbooks if you will) will be a pretty easy jump. as you state tho the problem is the internet or lack thereof. BMW's european ConnectedDrive has its own monthly fee. thats one way to go about it. my iPhone already has unlimited data though -- so as someone mentioned above, i think the ultimate solution will be a bluetooth link to use your phone as a modem. in-dash pandora here we come!

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    tom, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Cell Phone as Modem

    hi,
    interesting article. an app store in cars would certainly liven up the daily commute! i think chip-sets to make hard drive based navigation systems into mini computers (auto netbooks if you will) will be a pretty easy jump. as you state tho the problem is the internet or lack thereof. BMW's european ConnectedDrive has its own monthly fee. thats one way to go about it. my iPhone already has unlimited data though -- so as someone mentioned above, i think the ultimate solution will be a bluetooth link to use your phone as a modem. in-dash pandora here we come!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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