Wednesday, July 21, 2010

QNX, BMW and Apple iPod Out

QNX has had a long tradition of being independent.  When we were acquired by Harman International, a big automotive tier one (Harman Becker) suddenly became our sister company.  Many of our automotive customers were concerned if we would still support them, since Harman Becker was one of their competitors.  Non-auto customers were worried that we would just drop their market altogether.  We proved our commitment to our customers with more than just words, and some of the most vehemently concerned customers eventually admitted that we were treating them even better after the acquisition than before.  That is, more responsive, more proactive, more resources, and quicker technology rollouts.

After RIM acquired QNX, I expected another round of the same customer concerns about QNX and our continued direction.  It really hasn't materialized, I guess because this time around everyone clearly sees that there is a very natural fit to RIM and QNX.  About the only thing we hear these days is the occasional question from customers about whether or not we will still support the technologies they care about.  An example is: "since Apple and RIM are competitors, are you going to continue supporting Apple devices?"

The answer is, of course "yes," but the proof in the pudding, as they say.  How about this:

Apple's iPod Out feature is a brand-spanking new feature that Apple just released in OS4 that allows an iPhone or iPod Touch to pump an Apple-customized video HMI to an automotive head-unit. It's not available in any production models today, and BMW is the very first car company to announce support for it. I'll give you just one guess which operating system is being used for this project.  (And despite BMW's highly public Linux strategy, please don't waste your guess on GenIVI :-)

Although the feature is hot off the presses, here's a shaky-cam snapshot of our very own Mike Shane running the QNX Neutrino RTOS with a preliminary version of the iPod out feature integrated into our iPod driver.

Biking in Oregon

Although I've been back for a week now and the post-vacation buzz has subsided to a whisper, I thought I'd share a couple pictures from my recent trip to Oregon where I spent some time biking down part of the coast.  It was a fantastic trip!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The key fob is dead! Long live the key fob!

Here's some food for thought.  I was reading in the latest SAE about how key fob powers are becoming broader vehicle personalization devices.  They are doing much more than just an unlock: remote start, rolling down windows, checking temperature, controlling vehicle seat settings, radio presets, colors, and almost any other preferences you can think of.  The article by SAE goes on to quote Lear and talk about how they see the fobs requiring feedback so that you can monitor the vehicle settings remotely as well.  To handle all these capabilities, they're bumping up the processors from 8-bit to 16- or 32-bit processors (can't say that I'm sad about that), as well as putting in small LCD screens.

Okay.  Combine that fact with some other recent announcements.  Like the smart phone apps from Chevy for the Volt or the OnStar smartphone app that lets you access your vehicle.  Delphi makes a system today that right now uses a combination smartphone with a souped-up key fob and range extender.

It's not hard to see that key fobs as we know them are going the way of the dinosaur.  Why on earth are you going to carry one more huge lump on your key chain when you've already got your phone?  I predict that within the next 3 years, key fobs will be those extra-expensive optional add-ons that will be sold only to the severely technologically challenged.  Everyone else will download their OEM's specialized key fob app into their smartphone.  Those key fob apps will use WiFi, Bluetooth, or a cellular network to communicate with their vehicle--unlocking it, starting it, and setting it up specifically for you.  Smartphone apps won't require additional hardware costs.  And they're already an indispensable part of the everyman's (and everywoman's) arsenal.

I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have a key fob, but a key fob app.