There’s a big change coming to the automobile industry. It’s smartphone driven and it’s designed to bring the functionality of your phone’s operating system to your car. Once they work out the kinks, driving promises to be a whole new experience.
When you look at the speed of change in industries like smartphones, cars seem to be lagging far behind. Aside from a few new efficiency upgrades, the occasional hybrid and a lot more plastic, cars today are much the same as they were 10 years ago.
The idea isn’t endemic to the smartphone industry. In fact, there are several car manufacturers that are working to get more apps into their dash displays as we speak.
But they’re doing it in a very automobile-industry fashion: each car manufacturer is developing its own set of apps and its own proprietary interface. And they hope that app displays will join no money down and low MSRPs in the battle to steal car customers away from the other guy.
The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has a better idea. Instead of forcing you to choose your car based on one of its least relevant features and pay through the nose for a clunky interface designed by a car manufacturer, they’re taking a note from smartphone manufacturers and reaching out to app developers and phone manufacturers: the guys who know how to make it good, cheap and with all the upgrades you need to enhance your driving experience.
To do that, they are creating an industry standard called MirrorLink. Instead of allowing car manufacturers to fracture and complicate display interfaces, they hope to bring some uniformity to in-dash apps.
Ostensibly, at least. As it turns out, the CCC is run by Mika Rytkonen director of Program Management at Nokia. And I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the CCC was a clever way for the Windows OS champions to help Microsoft to get its foot into the dash OS door and block all other entry.
But that’s really just bad news for other OS manufacturers. For the near future, MirrorLink and the CCC promise new car app development at the speed that only a monopoly can muster.
I am a little worried, however, that we may lose out in the long run. After all, fierce competition is the driving force that’s made smartphones so innovative and successful.
When Apple ruled the roost, we moved at the speed of Apple. And it wasn’t until Android began competing in a serious way that the smartphone market was open to many more manufacturers and we began to see the kind of innovation that was already happening elsewhere.
By stifling the competition, the CCC is actually following the car manufacturers’ model. By letting each manufacturer develop in-dash apps and displays we might have seen more innovation as they compete to find something better, faster, more intuitive — anything to lure your consumer dollar.
I’m not sure how I feel about this news. In-dash apps are an exciting wave of the Knight Rider future. But starting it out in this monopolistic fashion could severely hamper its progress and leave what could be the beginning of a brave new world as static as the car industry that runs it.
But I’ve been wrong before. What do you think? We’d love to know. Leave your opinions, gripes and disagreements in the comments section.