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Thread: CES 2009 - Car Computers are Dead. Long Live Car Computing. -by Bugbyte

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    CES 2009 - Car Computers are Dead. Long Live Car Computing. -by Bugbyte

    This was the first time I've ever been to CES. I knew CES is the largest consumer oriented electronic show and despite a 10% reduction in attendance, this year did not disappoint in terms of size. Fibreoptic and I walked for 4 days straight and still didn't see all of the show, which takes up the entire Las Vegas convention center and spills over to several nearby hotels.

    So, what were my impressions? The overwhelming sense I got was that car computing is alive and well but is unlikely to include traditional computers in the next few years. The days of the car PC are numbered.

    Smaller and Smaller

    The trend on the mp3Car.com forums for the past several years has been more towards innovation on the software development side rather than the hardware side. Although the learning curve may be steep for newbies, car PC veterans know that it is trivial to install a PC in a car. Power supplies, screens, hard drives and motherboards that can survive and operate reliably in the car are readily available and easy to install. While performance differences command differing price points, car PC hardware is effectively a commodity.

    Combine this with the trend of shrinking hardware size whether form factor, power requirements or storage, along with continuing price reductions however you measure the cost (per megabyte, per CPU cycle, per watt) and the car PC is an endangered species. Why? Because small device like smartphones are getting both smarter and more powerful.

    These phones are destined to be more than just application-enabled handheld devices. They represent a product that is increasing in storage, computational capability, full time connectivity whether bluetooth, WiFi, or cellular. Right now, they represent a simply a communication component that can link your car PC to data or voice networks but as they become more powerful they will eventually displace the PC in the car.

    Consider how close a device such as an iPhone comes to replacing a PC in the car right now. The big apps for car PC's such as music, video, web browsing, GPS and high speed internet are all available. Turn by turn navigation and voice control are not on the iPhone but doubtlessly they will be and they are available on other phones today.

    Of course, there are still compromises. Phones have a visually intensive interface, limited storage, proprietary protocols and OS capabilities, limited graphics capabilities and slower CPU's than full-blown PC's. Here's why I don't see that as a problem in the near future:

    The move of desktop applications to the net via web applications such as Google apps like gmail, mapping, calendars, chat and so forth offload the processing to systems on the net. That means the net computes your routings rather than your PC. It also offloads the storage requirement for data like maps while permitting access to live, updated information like traffic, weather, video and so forth. Connected computers have much more value in the car than non-connected ones.

    What Does the Future Look Like?

    So, what do I think this new future of car computing will look like? I think within the next five years we will see a shift from hardware in the car to a mobile device that you carry on your person. This device will help deliver what I call "Webiquity," the intersection of the right information to the right person at the right time, and on the right device. Webiquity exists in a limited way today for example, whenever Google asks you if you meant to inquire about movie times instead of moive times, but it doesn't span the majority of our human activity.

    When do I think a 'magic' device or phone will be delivered? First, I doubt if we will recognize it when it first appears. I certainly never connected the idea of putting a modern PC in my car when IBM delivered the PS/1. It will probably emerge through gradual experimentation and the ease of fitting crucial missing links in place.

    Always Connected

    The main link is advances in communications. It's pretty clear that if you are willing to pay for it, you can get net access most of the time. As the coverage becomes better and the cost for connectivity continues to drop, our attention will turn towards the possibility of actually depending on the net for things we can't store on our devices -such as weather, dynamic traffic, gas prices and so forth.

    In fact, current iPhones might make a pretty good car PC except for the screen and the interface. Even if there were an easy way to link the phone's display or drive a separate display (say, by bluetooth or WiFi, or even by a docking mechanism), we'd still have the problem of the interface and extending the functionality of the phone in the car.

    Hardware Agnostic

    Therefore it's not necessarily a lock to say that this device will be a phone. As hardware gets smaller and more powerful, non-handset makers will be innovating to offer connectivity on new and different types of devices. Who knows? It may not be a single device at all. It might be a series of devices and interfaces that you interact with as you move from home to car to office and back. All I know is that the results will be small, powerful, and connected.

    Given the ability of a web browser to access and run most any kind of web application running on nearly any type of OS, I expect the OS in the car device to become less and less of an issue except for specific hardware interface issues. The OS will still matter on the web server, but the end result -the application being run by the client, will be less and less important.

    So, while one piece of the puzzle is probably hardware -something like a monitor that is wireless or cellular and can interface with your handheld device, the other piece is software.

    The Software Will Be The Solution

    Once we can reliably depend on the mobile net, we'll start shifting our attention from front ends that are tied to an OS to front ends or voice interfaces that are built on the web, for our cars. We'll be able to mash up services, figure out routings, get directions, find phone numbers, view webcams and stream data in both directions.

    Of course, we can already do that in some of the most advanced car PC installations. The best part will be the applications we haven't thought of yet. Right now, nascent applications that are location aware are just now beginning to be developed. Consider how cool would it be if you could conjure up Zillow while driving through neighborhoods hunting for houses? School performance, tax data, things to do and see would be available to you on the move. How about dynamic GPS reroutes based on traffic density reports online? Or instant comparison and evaluation of codes thrown by your car's OBDII port to tell you whether you need to head to the nearest mechanic right away or whether that sound the car is making can wait a day or so?

    It may all sound a bit far out right now but what I saw at CES confirmed what I already thought. The days of the car PC are numbered. It may die a slow and lingering death, but evolution is going to catch up with it eventually. I think sooner than later.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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    The only issue I see with this idea is that a lot of people tend to stay with the CarPC because of screen size. I can't imagine rolling down the road trying to simply glance at my iPhone for all that info. It can be done to be sure but, it's much easier with a 7 inch screen than a 4 inch screen. The devices you are referring to sound a lot like MIDs or UMPCs and unfortunately, they seem to be heading out the door.

    I use a UMPC as my Carputer and believe me I love it. It serves as a 7 inch touchscreen carputer when I need it to yet, I can take it with me when I leave and use it at home or work and I do. I have a mount in my car and just pop it in place and connect the USB cable which runs to my glove box holding all the peripherals. For me, it's the perfect solution. But even among carpc enthusiasts, I'm a minority.

    Realising the opportunity to reach the CarPC market, a lot of the UMPC manufacturers are even making car mounts with built in GPS antennae to make themselves more marketable but, again, the market seems to be slipping away from them.

    The mobile computing market seems to be going the way of the iPhone and the MID but, I don't think the face of Carputing will change with it. But hey, that's one guy's opinion and I've been wrong a lot.

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    Variable Bitrate mayhembdm666's Avatar
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    I would wonder if these pre-made small setups are going to be the "factory" standard as apposed to having someone install an after market top of the like stereo as such.

    As with PC, they are becoming more and more a multitasking device for the home and office. Houses are now having computers integrated with climate control and security features along with everything else that a computer can do. Even your fridge can connect to the wireless and tell you that you have used your average amount of milk and should run out in about 3 days..

    But Software is always being developed for every aspect of computer and as long as the desktop computer evolves with the software. They will always be at the top of the line. But maybe not as cheap but still the best it an offer.

    For small things like gps routed based upon traffic conditions and road works, This may come down the the mobile net but if each country or city starts to have an all in one online database accessible via the internet then all that is needed is a 24/7 internet connection from the car and the right interface/software to access and use this information.... This will come down to standards... Something that should be started when it comes to the Carputer world.

    I know we have "some" standards in the desktop/laptop world but this can not always follow over to the car world as we need to always build a custom interface for controls and sensors/output.

    The base carputer seems to be a TouchScreen/PC/Engine Interface/Audio output.
    The optionals are internet/bluetooth and then inputs/outputs to various sources.

    Im not saying that the carputer is not doomed, It may very well be..
    But if we start to make it a standard and regulate or control as such the design variations and bring it past the backyard hobbiest then it very well could become as big as the common desktop market or car stereo/cd player which is now standard..


    I just read all that back and does not make sense to me, But i hope it does makes some sense to some people... But just a thought that we can make it live in the future
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    I think I know where you're going. When I say the days of the car PC are 'numbered,' I don't think they'll go extinct for awhile but I think the momentum will be towards what will be some kind of standard equipment in the car - screen, bluetooth, audio input (probably wireless). There will still be reasons to have car PC's for awhile - storage of music and movies come to mind. But only for awhile.

    One thing I got a glimpse of at CES was the automaker's point of view. The Airbiquity technology, which uses the CONSUMER's phone rather then one built into the car, was selected by Ford partly because they didn't want to put devices in their cars. Devices in cars (like an OnStar modem) cost money to manufacture, install, support, and maintain. Not all consumers want them, so you are putting them in every car to sell them only to some purchasers.

    Far more elegant to use the consumer's phone and voice plan and let them pay for the device and connectivity and upgrades over the life of the car.

    The Airbiquity solution actually uses the voice channel, NOT the data channel, to send very small amounts of data like an old modem over voice, so it works on every phone with bluetooth - 80% of consumers already have that in their phones.

    Extend that out to a 'standard' implementation of bluetooth that becomes as ubiquitous as the iPod connector in most cars and you have that link you need to connect your car to the net. Again, it will come in fits and starts. It won't work in some non-urban areas and so forth, but it will eventually work.

    Once you can retrieve all the data and applications you need from the net, all you need is a front end browser that can display it and do some simple calculations and have some local storage. That's what the smart phone or device will do.

    If I were Xenarc or Lilliput, I'd be working right now to build a screen with WiFi built in like the Iogear wireless VGA device that we saw at CES. I'd add bluetooth or wireless USB to interface with the in car computer but I'd also be working on how to interface it with an iPhone or another popular phone.

    Somebody will do it. Maybe one of us.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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    Maximum Bitrate DaveDog's Avatar
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    For the most part, I agree with what bugbyte is saying. While I didn't go to CES, I really believe the way things will go is a double DIN touchscreen, running some sort of frontend incorporating navigation, using bluetooth to your phone for voice and data connectivity to get traffic updates, with Ipod connectivity for mass storage, and possibly connectable radio modules.


    Here is a device that is already close to this:


    http://www.ohgizmo.com/2008/03/13/in...-tom-gps-unit/
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    Maximum Bitrate DaveDog's Avatar
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    ok,

    found the newest AVN product, available in April, does just about everything, can't wait to find out the price.

    http://eon.businesswire.com/portal/s...42&newsLang=en
    TruckPC - gutted, being used for test setup
    BoatPC - All in 1 in cuddy, N7 using VNC on dash, RR
    BlazerPC - Nexus 7 with Timur's USBROM

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    I figure they will die out just like mainframes did?? - for the last 25+ years been a mainframe programmer - with pc's on the side
    If anyone gives me a rev - I give them the Bird

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick99TAWS6 View Post
    I figure they will die out just like mainframes did?? - for the last 25+ years been a mainframe programmer - with pc's on the side
    Sure, there will still be applications for actual PC's in the car. But the momentum will be headed toward this idea of Webiquity, whether in the car, in the coffee shop, in the home, or wherever.

    If you want to divide it into waves, then call:

    First Wave: Hardware

    Powering and operating a PC and display in the car. Simply getting a reliable consumer grade system to operate in the car environment.

    Second wave: Software

    Overlaps with first wave, of course, and the one we are currently in. Building the apps that are beyond just music or navigation.

    Third wave: Connectivity

    Always on and connected. Characterized by increasing dependence on apps and data served from the net.

    Fourth wave: Webiquitous

    Seamless transition from car to other environments. Data available to you wherever you need it and relevant to your needs. Location and situation based applications able to recognize and predict what you need. Missed the bus? Here's the quickest alternative - before you asked. Requires AI.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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    is back. FKA Robert Wray
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    I took the liberty of highlighting this thread on our blog.
    ____________________
    Tom Berry, known on our forums as Bugbyte writes a long interesting report about his thoughts on CES and the future of car computing. See his report and talk about CES on our forums here: Tom has contributed almost 5,000 posts to the Mp3car community. He traveled with Robert Wray to CES 2009 to video hot new technology for the mp3car community. Thank you Tom! See the full collection of MP3car CES coverage on Vimeo

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    Variable Bitrate Deric's Avatar
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    I always think a full carPC has never been for the masses. That is the appeal of the CarPC especially with the open source solutions out there and hashing something that is not totally mainstream at the moment. I've been saying I was going to put a pc in my car for a while and just recently started the build. There are a lot of headunits that are available (AVIC-F90BT for example) that can accomplish most if not all of what most CarPC users use their setup for. I for one like the fact that it is something I've put together myself and if I want a feature I can install it or configure it. I think we will start to see more carPC's and all in one solutions out there especially with the 3.5" boards out there now but I doubt they will become the gross standard. I think OEM car manufactures will start to integrate PC functions but the scalability of the custom built CarPC will always have an appeal to those who like to tinker.


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