The growing universe of rich Web-based services, content, and applications offers a tremendous revenue opportunity for automotive suppliers, manufacturers, service and content providers, and others. Automotive suppliers can turn this opportunity into reality by building an open infotainment platform that connects to the Internet in various ways and provides the performance, software flexibility, and security to run the latest and most sophisticated Web applications.
This article explains why x86 platform architecture delivers on the promise of a truly rich and interactive driving experience in a way that's difficult or impossible for non-PC-compatible platforms.
Enlivening a connected platform
Car owners spend billions of dollars each year to accessorize their cars with the latest gadgets that help them find their way, keep them informed and entertained, allow them to communicate with friends, family and colleagues, and keep their passengers occupied. Automotive and consumer electronics suppliers offer a broad spectrum of fixed function devices, such as GPS navigation systems, AM/FM/satellite radios, and entertainment devices that allow vehicle occupants to access locally stored audio or video content from CDs or DVDs. But an explosion of Web-based services, content, and applications threatens to make those gadgets quickly outdated.
View a full-size image
Devices based on embedded processors such as ARM or PowerPC are typically designed to support a few targeted applications. These applications are usually "hard-coded" into the device making it difficult or impossible to upgrade when new features are available.
In the consumer electronics, PC, and Internet worlds, the pace of innovative new applications is almost continuous. In the automotive world, long design and validation cycles mean that it typically takes an in-car electronics device two to four years to reach the market after it's fully designed. When the inflexibility of these fixed-function devices meets the lag time of the automotive lifecycle, the result is that in-car devices are obsolete before they even hit the market.
The upgradeability and openness of a PC-like platform bridges the gap between automotive and consumer lifecycles. An in-car device using an open architecture can be easily updated with the latest applications when the device ships from the factory. If the device is enabled to run Web-based applications, new applications and content can be available without making any changes to the device itself.