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Thread: Help me decide if selling a CarPC is worth it

  1. #11
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    Heather's Avatar
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    The best way to find this out would be to send mp3Car a sample and we will have one of the forum members review it for you. Based on their review and the feedback of others, I am sure you will have enough information to decide. You can see the great reviews that forum members have already completed on mp3Car.com.

    Feel free to pm if you would like to have a forum member test this product for you. It is also a great way to support the community here.

    Heather

    Quote Originally Posted by brokenboy View Post
    I work as an EE for a company that makes a product for a different market that we could easily modify to be a nice CarPC. I've already put one in my Subaru, and it's working great for me. I think it has a lot of neat features that would make doing a CarPC really easy and smooth for many people.

    The goal of this product would be a good, stable, supported CarPC, without lots of crazy features. Those can be added with USB. I don't see the point in WiFi, Bluetooth, video capture, or GPRS being embedded when those can be so easily added. It's a PC that just works, with base hardware that is really solid.

    I'd like to propose this as a product to my company, but I have no real idea how to estimate the market size for a product like this. We're a serious company that has been around for over a decade, with over 50 employees, and we don't just throw a product into a market, so we need to do a real investigation into the market size. At the same time, we're good at mid-volume products, and aren't looking for 1M units a year. We are known for phenomenal support on our products.


    Basic specs on the hardware. Most of these specs are already close to what we have in our product, so they aren't dreams. I am running the below in my car already:

    1) All-in-one box. The whole thing, LCD, motherboard, and power supply included, is only 2" deep. May need to grow a touch thicker if we want to support an internal 2.5" SATA HD (SSD or mechanical).

    2) Probably 1GHz AMD CPU, with 3D hardware graphics acceleration. Possibility of faster CPUs at the expense of heat and power draw. This processor runs Windows 7 and Centrafuse just fine.

    3) Fully integrated power controller. Hooks up like a normal car radio- a battery connection and a switched key connection. When the switched key turns on, the PC turns on. When the switched key turns off, it sends a power button event to the OS, so you can have it hibernate, sleep, or shut down. When the PC shuts off, the power supply shuts off fully to a zero current draw state.

    Even more, the power supply works as low as 4V, so it stays on when you start the car if it was already running. The system shuts down if it was running below 10V for more than 30 seconds, so if you leave it on, it will turn off when your battery gets low and you can still start the car. Overall, an experience that is like a OEM radio or nav. Currently, I can resume from hibernate to music playing in 20 second from the key being turned.

    Current design only takes 30W of power.

    4) 7" 800x480 LCD screen, 1200 nits (not a typo), LED backlit. The LCD can dim down to 0.4 nits for night usage. The PC operates the LCD correctly at this resolution all the time, like a laptop. Our current product is not a touchscreen, so I don't know if this would end up capacitive or resistive. I am using a $30 ebay resistive, but $60 capacitive units exist in volume.

    5) Optional 10.2" 1024x600, 1350 nit screen.

    6) Multi-channel line-level audio input and output. A good, HDA audio bus based audio codec, with it's own internal power supply, and reasonable op-amps. No USB CPU resource issues or hibernate issues. Would be designed to be reasonable for 95% of the users, but not the people focused on ultimate sound quality. No internal power amplifier.

    7) Fully integrated amp turn on output with delays and anti-pop. Also for powering things like amplified antennas.

    8) Dimming the LCD is tied into the headlights in the car.

    9) Multiple hardware serial ports (not USB-serial)

    10) 3 USB 2.0 ports, 2A total power available. All on back of unit

    11) External inputs for buttons which are reported to the OS as keystrokes. Also includes an input for a power button that allows you to turn the system on without putting the key in, or turn it off/reset it like a normal PC power button. This means you can install buttons somewhere that you can press to go direct to radio, nav, home menu, etc. I have a knob hooked up for volume.

    12) Direct steering wheel control integration, reported to the OS as keystrokes.

    13) VGA output for running a second screen

    14) Priced well below what it would cost you to buy these functions individually. I'm well aware that price drives sales, and we're generally the lowest cost product in our market. We do a lot of work to make the products affordable. But it would still be over $1K. This cost comes from the things like the bright screen, the solid power controller, the low volume.

    So, would you buy it? What else do you want?

  2. #12
    FLAC
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    Quote Originally Posted by traxxxstar View Post
    Also I think you need to be able to have an optical drive in order to make it marketable. All-in-one for the consumer market place has to truly mean all in one.
    i dont know, it would have to be a seperate usb drive because in almost all installs ive seen, the case is nowhere accessible to put a cdrom in it anyway. still, a usb dvd burner costs $50 for a good one, so maybe it could be included (or sold as a luxury addon)

  3. #13
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    were talking about an all-in-one in-dash unit here not a split screen/pc.

  4. #14
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    i guess youre right? i dont really understand how/where you would install it though... unless the case is made to fit in a double DIN slot

  5. #15
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    As someone that has done Business Plans/Cases, I suggest you look into what they require (ie the plans.... => cash flow, stock-to-door price lag, etc).

    As someone that knows little about carPCs per se, I'd suggest many will probably want to build their own because they won't understand how cheap yours is etc etc...
    But yours will be obsolete within 3 months...
    To be competitive you need a mass market...
    With bulk purchases...
    That you aren't stuck with in 3 months.... or 2 months because it took you 1 month to implement & distribute etc.

    And although carPCs may take off, it will be via the car manufacturers, not little players (I think it's too late for that... but I could well be wrong...)

    The best system is modular with add-ons. But that has higher setup costs....

  6. #16
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    Thanks for everyone's input! It's not quite what I expected, but it is all very helpful.

    I still think there is a market for a product like this, but it might not be the hardcore hobbyist market. I was actually hoping that a CarPC that bolted in to a double-DIN slot, wired up like your normal car radio, and managed it's power like a normal car device would actually expand the market beyond the hardcore hobbyist market. Beyond people that see the barrier to having a PC in their car as having to hack up their dash and trunk and run 20 cables. Basically catching the market that is already paying $1K+ for something like a Pioneer AVIC unit that doesn't even have a hard drive for storing MP3s or videos.

    I guess I underestimated how much the hobbyist was based on "performance" of the computer. I was focusing on a PC that had reasonable power draw (30W, like a laptop), and had a design that could be supported for years. But this does mean non-cutting edge performance. Personally, if the device in my car can play a HD video (on my totally SD 800x480 screen), I'm not sure what more performance I want. I really can't imagine what a processor would do for me.

    Personally, if the PC can boot in 20 seconds, play MP3's, play the radio, surf the web, do OBD-II logging, interface with my bluetooth phone, and do navigation, I'm happy. To do that doesn't require a fast PC. I'm not playing Crysis here.

    The price is also not something that can come crashing down. We're not talking about consumer products here, we're talking about things that might sell 1K per year. If our parts cost was $700, it can't be sold for $1K. We have to assemble it, warranty it, engineer it, etc. Sell 1,000 per year, and you "make" $300K. But you have an engineer that worked on drivers, and a mechanical guy that packaged it, and the support guy that answers questions all day... Suddenly your $300K looks more like $50K a year, which is nothing for a serious company. Sell it through a dealer with a 10% markup, and you're underwater.

    The screen is not $500. But it's not free either, and it's a custom design to get brightness like you only see in $500 screens. Sure, I could shave $50-$100 off the product with a super cheap LCD and touch overlay, and then everyone would complain about the product being hard to see in the daylight, which would make your $900 product super annoying.

    I also still think that adding all the "features" in the base unit is a quick path to failure. It ups your price quickly, but not everyone uses it. OBD-II? I run a Tactrix cable in my Subaru because it's better than a generic OBD-II. DVD drive? I personally have zero interest in that and load all my media over WiFi at home or via USB hard drive. WiFi? Heard a lot of people find that pointless in a car even though I use it weekly.

  7. #17
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    I agree with your assessment. This may be the wrong crowd for such a device. I still think 30W is too much power. If you search for my thread with my single-solution, I suggest a more embedded solution with really low power draw (3W) that can stay on most of the time. This means that startup is instant and if for some reason it has to shutoff, 10secs would be the longest boot time (in theory).

    Who knows, you may be able pick up a number of users here who want no-fuss hardware. If you can offer a no-fuss software on top of that, you're +1 for potential buyers.
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  8. #18
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    30W includes the screen at full brightness and a hard drive. But I'll admit it can't actually run at just 3W. It would likely need to hibernate, and I have resume down to 20 seconds (from key on) with basically no optimization.

    3W is still 300mA on a 12V battery, which only means 90-ish hour standby on a normal car battery. I think you need to get sub 1/4 watt to start really considering an always on solution.

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