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Thread: Has Android killed the car PC?

  1. #1
    Newbie CohesiveTech's Avatar
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    Has Android killed the car PC?

    The very moment I held my first Droid I knew the universe has changed. For me the Android platform is as significant to Technology as was the IBM PC.

    Unlike most on this board, I am not in this for the fun of it. For more than five years now I've been developing a specialized product for the vehicle market. In fact I've built four generations of them now; each more sophisticated than the last.

    I am very passionate about this idea.

    But Android has caused my efforts over the past few years to become moot. So much of the functionality I have built, borrowed and bought already exists in this little computer. Now I am starting over (again).

    Technology sucks on many levels.

    So I ask; has Android killed the car PC? I think so.
    DJF

    David Falkenstein
    Cohesive Technology - seamless is everything

  2. #2
    Maximum Bitrate kegobeer's Avatar
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    Nope. My carpc plays HD video, contains my entire music collection, can support multiple screens, plays games, surfs the web, and supports hardware upgrades as I see fit. Video, audio, chipset, and other hardware drivers are always being improved and released by the manufacturers. It is permanently installed in the trunk of my car, alongside my amplifier. It blends perfectly with my car audio system. It runs Windows and is constantly updated by Microsoft. It is fully wireless, plus has wired ethernet for faster speeds when transferring large files. I'm not ham-stringed by lousy cell phone manufacturers refusing to upgrade the OS, nor by the complete lack of in-car entertainment applications.

    I think a new generation of head units will lure some people away from the carpc hobby market, but people that truly love building, tweaking, and maintaining a carpc will continue to do so - not because it is easy, but because it's fun and is unique in a sea of run of the mill audio and video solutions available for an automobile.
    Last edited by kegobeer; 03-25-2011 at 01:41 PM.

  3. #3
    North of the land of Hey Huns
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    I agree with kegobeer. Android is WAY too limited in both hardware and software support. Sure it's great for mobile devices, and perhaps even for headunits for the less technologically savvy folks to give them more features and options, but it will never take the place of a real OS for carpc's. There is so much you just plain can't do on android devices. Even if you hack android to put it on say, x86 hardware, you're still running into the same limited hardware support issues that you would have otherwise. In the carpc world, hardware support is everything. Android just dosen't have it. It's a purpose built operating system, and the carpc does not conform to such limitations well.

    Not even going into the other points about expandability, memory for large music collections, video processing power for multiple monitors and video games, and so on and so forth.

    That being said, if you're building a carpc for a permanent never-touch device, then if an Android tablet does everything you need it to, there you go. But personally for me, and many others who are in this for the hobby, not for the end result, it does not, and never will do enough.
    "stop with the REINSTALLS, what do you think we got some lame-o installer!!!" - mitchjs
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  4. #4
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    There are 3 trends going on which android may only fill one or two.

    1) Built-in devices. This is what Saab is doing with android running in their head unit. This is also the general school of thought that carpc makers subscribe to. The idea is, you have a piece of hardware that generally stays in your car. the carpc will always own this side because we can do more with our custom hardware and software then OEMs can. In this world, android/meego/windows/foo is just another piece of software. Not to mention android is next to useless on non-google-blessed hardware without google's secret sauce applications and the marketplace.

    2) plugin-in devices. These are your tablet guys. They take their tablets running MeeGo/Android/iOS and they "plug it in". There seems to be more and more people subscribing to this school of thought because it's easier. You don't have to build hardware and you don't have to install/configure an OS for it. Many people who are disenchanted with how difficult setting up and maintaining a carpc are moving to this approach. There are limitations of course. Mal mentioned most of them.

    3) Hybrid. This is what I like to think of as the perfect marriage between 1 and 2. I've yet to see anyone here do it though. This is analogous to nokia's terminal mode. It's where your headunit integrates perfectly with your plugin device. In my mind, the best implementation of this would to use the car's interface for the driver and have everyone else use the plugin mode. The headunit would run a modern, specialized OS like MeeGo which is designed for both the vehicle and the phone/tablet. That way you get a perfect marriage, or at least in theory.

    I plan on doing a demo of this at the MeeGo Conf and possibly at afkfest. hopefully it will be awesome.

    that's my take. I don't think android is killing anything. The people who subscribe to 2, don't last in this hobby long anyway.
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  5. #5
    Newbie CohesiveTech's Avatar
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    Thank you Malcom and Trip. I take your point and agree with some of it; particularly Trips hybrid approach.

    I don't see a tablet or droid-like device doing all things; it is not nearly powerful enough. But I do see a possibility of an Android platform acting as a dockable head and UI that would connect with and control an embedded core. The core could control peripherals, telemetry, and internal systems while the docking Droid provides connectivity, entertainment and navigation.

    The big reason for my assertion is that an end user, who already has a Droid, now has more features available to it, a common user paradigm, and a way to communicate with the vehicle docked or remotely.

    I also assert that the approach a hobbyist would take will be different than that of a manufacturer. Lets face it; new technology is often born of the bright minds found on boards like this one, but sustained and widely adopted technology comes from the deepest pockets. To wit; since the '70's I've built my own hardware until the cost of doing so made it impractical. I soldered together my first two PCs from Radio Shack kits. Today its cheaper to buy a Dell.

    I meant to be provocative. But I also meant to ask the big question; are we all about to change everything; again?
    DJF

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  6. #6
    North of the land of Hey Huns
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    Quote Originally Posted by CohesiveTech View Post
    But I also meant to ask the big question; are we all about to change everything; again?
    What's this "again"? I've said it before and I'll say it again: You have two types of users here at mp3car. The hobbiests, and the trenders. The hobbiests are the people that have been doing this forever, and will be doing it forever, because it's fun. The trenders came in recently with the advent of tablets, android, new better phones, and all that. They'll use these things until the next big thing comes along, and then move on. That's how it works. The core hobby won't ever really change. We occasionally get new hardware, or new software, and it makes the hobby more functional or more fun, but Android is one for the trenders. It will come and go just like they do.
    "stop with the REINSTALLS, what do you think we got some lame-o installer!!!" - mitchjs
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  7. #7
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    is it hobbyists, or hobbiests?

    though i agree with the points above..

    Quote Originally Posted by CohesiveTech
    Lets face it; new technology is often born of the bright minds found on boards like this one, but sustained and widely adopted technology comes from the deepest pocket
    so true..


    for the change, i don't think that the forum will change dramatically, but i think that the focus is slowly shifting to customization instead of 'the basics' because the OEM's meet many people's basic carpc requirements.. i am seeing the trend where there is less motivation to beat what the OEM's can offer, like there used to be years ago, and work more on the customization aspect-- which, as others said, what the OEM's can never provide. granted, allowing people to build, and use apps for in-car use is a great alternative in the way of customization, and individuality, but it just can't compete with a full OS solution like what most of us use.. now that the OEM's have started to realize that a cassette deck, and am/fm radio don't cut it anymore, i don't think that us as hobbyist's/iest's can truly compete on the same level-- OEM's just have deeper pockets..

  8. #8
    North of the land of Hey Huns
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    OEM's have deeper pockets, and you line those pockets. A friend of mine bought a Z recently, and the navigation option was $4000. You can make a hell of a carpc for that price, that does a lot more than navigation. The point is, we're not trying to compete on the same level. If you're trying to achieve the functionality that OEM's have, go buy an OEM system. This hobby is about doing things ourselves to get things exactly how we want them. No OEM system will ever be able to do everything my carpc can, exactly how I want it to, because no OEM system was designed by me, for me. It's the trenders that will move on to OEM systems once they have enough functionality to do what they want, not people who do this for fun.

    You can easily distinguish between the two by asking a question: What is your end goal with your carpc. If you have one, you'll eventually move on to other things (such as Android integrated into OEM systems) If you don't have a goal, you're likely to be doing this for years to come.
    "stop with the REINSTALLS, what do you think we got some lame-o installer!!!" - mitchjs
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  9. #9
    Newbie CohesiveTech's Avatar
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    All good points. Indeed the hobbyist market has always been a cradle of innovation. But what if one looks beyond the hobbyist and the OEM? The hobbyist does it out of love, out of a sense of challenge, or to get chicks (the latter doesn't work by the way). The OEM has deep pockets, a whole bunch of bright people, and vastly different motivation (to sell cars at a better margins).

    I consider myself a VAR. Music and navigation are great but I want to bring life-saving technology to the masses. Personally I see no use for YouTube in my car, but I do see a lot of function being continuously connected without having to buy a GM. My market is focused and small, but the user base has safety as a motivator. The problem I face is this this user base are technologically handicapped.

    I must build it stupid-simple. This is why I am looking also at the Droid. It represents a common and familiar interface that users interact with daily. Today I use and love OpenMobile. It is built of superior quality code (I scanned it thoroughly). I have also used Centrafuse and RideRunner. However I see the paradigm used in iPods and Droids of a drag-able custom interface as familiar to the customer base. Sexy sells software.

    Anyone else?
    Last edited by CohesiveTech; 03-26-2011 at 09:38 AM.
    DJF

    David Falkenstein
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  10. #10
    North of the land of Hey Huns
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    Ah, you're more asking if Android has killed the carpc for a person individually, as opposed to the community as a whole. Well being as you know my opinion, I can't really say much more on the topic
    "stop with the REINSTALLS, what do you think we got some lame-o installer!!!" - mitchjs
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