Good time to buy carputer components?
I'm a long-time lurker (first registered Oct 2001) on this board, but I haven't actually done anything carputer-related yet. The main reason is that I would want such a big project (in terms of dollars and time) to last for several years. I didn't see carputer technology as "mature" yet, and I don't plan on keeping my current car ('95 Accord EX 4dr) more than another year or two.
The question of what car to replace the Accord with is obviously not one for this forum. The question of whether carputer tech is mature certainly is.
Most people buy technology either a) when they want it, or b) when they need it. If I had an "a" personality, I would be broke. ;) If I were a "b", I would never have any fun gadgets that aren't strictly necessary but enhance my life. Instead, I try to time my buying so that I get maximum use out of my gadgets, making sure that I will actually use them and they will stand the test of time.
I could have built a carputer back in the day when they were dedicated mp3 players on expensive single-board-computers (SBCs) with tiny (sometimes backlit!) character-based LCD screens. But it would have been quite expensive in terms of money and time, and boy would I feel the need to upgrade now.
Which brings me to my question: if I were to put together a nice carputer now, would I want to make major modifications to it within the next couple of years?
Here's my analysis of the different technologies involved and how they may change:
Screens - 7" VGA touchscreens are a HUGE step up from character-based LCDs. As I see it, the only thing they'll do in the next couple of years is gain in brightness, contrast, and resolution (and, of course, decreasing in cost).
Power - Opus solutions are expensive, but should last a long time. I don't anticipate much of a rise in power needs for basic carputer features (music, movies, GPS, networking, etc.).
Processors - will constantly change, but the big leap in processing-power-per-watt seems to have been made with the C3 series. I foresee no must-have features that would require more processing power.
Storage - will get bigger and cheaper, but new codecs will mean that an old hard drive can still hold tons of music and a couple of movies (enough for me!)
Peripherals - GPS isn't too likely to require huge changes until they send up the next generation of satellites. Wireless networking will continue to evolve, but will probably retain backwards-compatibility with 802.11b since it's so popular. Input devices seem pretty mature with touchscreens and tiny keyboards. ODBII stuff is car-specific.
Software - will get better and better, retaining its compatibility.
Seems to me like now is a pretty good time to start buying some of this stuff. What do you think?