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Communications Microsoft Transportation

Microsoft Bets Big On Computing For the Car 378

Posted by timothy
from the it-looks-like-you're-applying-makeup dept.
dstates writes "The automobile industry may be hurting, but Microsoft is doubling down and making a massive new investment in its automotive business unit. Microsoft already works closely with a number of car companies and will enhance that effort with more people and more resources. Sync developed as a collaboration with Ford Motor Co. allows motorists to control their cell phones, music players and navigation systems with voice commands while they drive. Microsoft is also making 'Live Search' technology available to automakers to develop in-car search and navigation. Detroit native Tom Philips, the new unit leader said 'There are a lot of technologies that are two to three years out that are going to provide even more connectivity and innovation. There's such a disconnect between what people experience in their cars and what they experience in the rest of their lives.'"
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Microsoft Bets Big On Computing For the Car

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  • by grahamsz (150076) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:49AM (#24385263) Homepage Journal

    Whats the state of navigation for linux in car systems? It'd be fun to homebrew one, but without decent navigation it's not a whole lot of use.

    I'm sure i should have some BSOD joke in here too, but i haven't had my coffee yet

    • TomTom (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:51AM (#24385303)

      The major navigation units like TomTom run embedded linux.

      • Re:TomTom (Score:5, Informative)

        by wireloose (759042) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:11AM (#24385747)
        I have a TomTom and it's a darned nice unit. The cheapest model is around $100 (refurbished) from places like TigerDirect.com. I bought two of them, and they're more than enough for the wife and me. I can't foresee MS making anything that cheap that goes into a car.
        • My TomTom always placed me about 150yds east of my actual location. Whenever I'd be on a north-south road is would tell me to turn at every crossroad to get back onto the road I was already on. Satellite location downloads and firmware upgrades didn't help. I took it back.
        • Re:TomTom (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dontmakemethink (1186169) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:57AM (#24386737)

          I can't foresee MS making anything that cheap that goes into a car.

          Doesn't matter, the price will be built into the new car price. Most people would rather have GPS on their dash than a standalone unit hanging off their windshield by a suction cup with a wire dangling down to the cigarette lighter, which they can no longer use. The same will apply to every convenience technology to come.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by e2d2 (115622)

            Not me, I'd rather have a unit I can take to another vehicle. I don't understand in-dash computers that can't be upgraded easily. It defies common sense.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ahoehn (301327)

              I don't understand in-dash computers that can't be upgraded easily. It defies common sense.

              As much as I love to hate on both Microsoft and Ford, their Sync partnership seems to be a pretty good thing. I wrote a couple ads for the system last year, and I was sort of impressed. Essentially they're taking the type of system that used to only be available in luxury cars and putting it in Focuses and the like.

              The basic Sync system with voice activated control of your Zune, iPod, bluetooth phone and the like is only $400, which, compared to the rediculous price of most car options isn't too bad.

              They h

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by DerekLyons (302214)

            with a wire dangling down to the cigarette lighter, which they can no longer use.

            I haven't seen a new car come with a cigarette lighter in years now... In fact, every "12v aux" jack I've seen recently specifically states in the manual that is not to be used as a cigarette lighter. (Can't take the current draw or the heat I imagine.)

            The same will apply to every convenience technology to come.

            The growing trend in cars is to provide multiple 12v jack points.

      • Re:TomTom (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @12:01PM (#24387921) Journal

        The major navigation units like TomTom run embedded linux.

        And if you ask me, this is the future of "car computing". I don't want to play solitaire on the road, and I don't want a GP O/S that's vulnerable to viruses. I don't want bluetooth anywhere near my ignition and fuel injection systems.

        Cars last 10-15 years. Computers typically last about 2-3. Trying to tie these together is a bad, bad idea.

        I drive (and love!) a 10 year-old Saturn with almost 200,000 miles on it. When it was built, the idea of a Tom-Tom was barely conceived, yet I drive with one routinely on long trips. Even if a Tom-Tom was built-in to new cars today, in just a few years it would be out-of-date as new units include everything from weather to instant-connect for ordering food locally. It would stick out like tail fins and sorely date your car.

        Sorry.

        Make my car drive reliably and efficiently first, leave the gadgets for later. At the very least, create a standardized, pluggable bay and protocol for gadgets down the road, akin to the ubiquitous cigarette lighter jack, so that we can plug in gadgets easily in the future. (hint: cigarette lighter jacks SUCK ASS for power plugs, they are just already there - give me something decent!)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nursie (632944)

      I'm hoping we'll get there before too long - I've just ordered an Openmoko [openmoko.org] Neo Freerunner. it has a GPS unit, I'm not sure what you can do with it yet.

      If we can get some sort of GPL'd Tom-Tom or Garmin style software, that would be cool.

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        It's the maps and more specifically the navigation data you would have trouble with, they won't give that away for free...
        You can read the GPS data quite easily, and plot it over map images downloaded from google. I guess if you have an active mobile data connection you could feed the src and destination into google maps and plot a route, but making it recognise turns and tell you when to make them would be quite hard.

    • by Sun.Jedi (1280674) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:57AM (#24385439) Journal

      Poll:
      How long before someone 'bricks' their 'stang?

      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:02AM (#24385575) Journal

        What's that, the geek equivalent of wrapping it around a tree?

        Just doesn't have the same ring to it..."So I jailbroke my Mustang, and then the new firmware bricked it, and now it's just sitting in my driveway saying, 'Please to fasten seat belt' over and over again...So...You wanna go sit in it?"

        It's just not going to draw the girls.

        • by jacoby (3149) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:29AM (#24386121) Homepage Journal

          There's two points of computation in a car. There's the part that interfaces with the locomotion, like the engine chips that are commonly modded for performance by people who are like that, and then there's the part that doesn't, like GPS and your MP3 stash and your wardriving kit.

          This is where I'm employed now, more or less. I don't expect to see any car company making it easy to be more than an observer of your engine and transmission any time soon. And you can brick your GPS, MP3, etc, and as long as you can trip the starter, you can drive your car.

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            really?

            Go look up megasquirt. you can completely replace you car's ECM and program it completely.

            Problem is 98% of all programmers dont know SQUAT about a car. Ask a programmer to set up the Fuel enrichment system to adjust for atmospheric pressure, temperature, engine load and throttle position as well as current spark advance and they gloss over.

            You gotta learn cars 100% first then learn programming to program the ECM and be good at it.

        • by Applekid (993327)

          What's that, the geek equivalent of wrapping it around a tree?

          I think the return of the HCF [wikipedia.org] instruction would be pretty cool... if not practical to start a carbeque whenever you need one.

      • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:45AM (#24386481) Journal

        When I saw "brick" and "'stang" in the same sentence, I thought you were going to talk about its handling characteristics...

        http://youtube.com/watch?v=etvaHh244Ok [youtube.com]

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:11AM (#24385735) Homepage

      the state of car computing sucks. Microsoft Did this in the 90's (AutoPC anyone?) and it sucked hard because the platform and Dev kit sucked ass.

      Hell you had to get the apps signed which severely reduced the community programming for it. plus the OS it's self and the hardware was buggy as hell. I reproduced for the guys at CES a fatal bug they refused to believe existed.

      If you turned on the ignition on and off and on again. you could lcok the hardware up HARD. this manifested it's self in manual transmission cars if you stalled the engine.

      • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:26AM (#24386059) Homepage Journal

        Oh FFS.. how can MS be so bad at everything they do?

        I'm just glad this is about stuff like GPS and MP3 system inputs, and not actual car control. I don't want to have to wait til SP2 until it's safe for friends and family to use the MS Autodrivatron. I'd rather have a more ethically responsible corporation in charge of software and hardware that can endanger human life. The car manufacturers themselves are probably the best bet for designing self-driving cars. In fact I know that VW at least has a self-driving Golf that can race fast round a track made of cones, think it was on Top Gear I saw it. Big step from there to a car that can recognise and react to pedestrians properly, but at least there is some proper research being done towards the self-driving car.

        • Do some research on the Evo X or R35 GTR...software/firmware problems are a major issue, and the R35 GTR has "Car DRM." I don't think MS had a hand in either of them though.

          Also there was a self-racing BMW on Top Gear, I don't know about a Golf...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          How can they be that bad? because the asshats put too tight a grip on the crap.

          AutoPC was a utter and horrible failure because of their "do it our way or Fark yourself" rules. Signing your app with their expensive signng policy was DESIGNED to keep the little guys away. Hardware hacking and building new interfaces was even harder as you had to shoehorn in driver updates with a full OS update.

      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:28AM (#24386111)

        My boss had a Windows CE car. It would occasionally turn on at 3 AM to do a bunch of diagnostics. So he would get in the car the next day to drive to work and surprise surprise the battery is almost dead from showing a blue screen all night.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by landonf (905751)

      Whats the state of navigation for linux in car systems? It'd be fun to homebrew one, but without decent navigation it's not a whole lot of use.

      I'm sure i should have some BSOD joke in here too, but i haven't had my coffee yet

      Navigation is a hard problem, primarily due to a lack of data. There are free sources (as in public domain) of street line data for many countries, however you need topological network data to accurately route a car -- street intersections, one-way streets, weighting of streets according to real-world local conditions, etc.

      The US Census releases the TIGER [census.gov] data, and OpenStreetMaps [openstreetmap.org] builds on that (and other) data with a public domain wiki-style site, but neither sources have sufficient topological data to rou

  • o goodie bsod as I am braking.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Well, I don't know, officer, I was driving an' then this animorphic paperclip appeared on the road and I swerved to hit him but instead he was just super 'mposed on the windshield so all I did was hit this here telerphone pole!"
  • a prediction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888)
    PREDICTION: Microsoft misses the mark yet again!
  • So, since they appear to be emulating Apple... will the entire strategy be centered around the Zune?
    • Are you saying that all new Fords will be turd colored? :P

      Skimming the article, it seems that MS is trying to integrate their "Live Search" into their entertainment and information features of current systems. Sounds like they are trying to beat out Google in this area. While cars these days do have navigation and search features, the information they carry is only as new as the optical discs that they carry. Yearly updates and about $300 is about the norm for new updates.

      Personally, I think something l

      • Re:Zune? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:13AM (#24385785) Journal

        Navigational updates are a good thing...That stuff is only as useful as it is current, but it has big brother possibilities which I don't particularly care for, and I'm pretty mellow (for a geek) about potential violations of my privacy.

        Microsoft especially has proven repeatedly that they are more than willing to sell out their customers...In my mind that's the real issue, above and beyond issues of utility or stability. Do you want them to have that kind of access to your life?

        • In my mind that's the real issue, above and beyond issues of utility or stability

          So you'd rather a system that could for example fry all the electronics in your car while you're on the move, possibly causing a complete lack of response on any of the controls (some modern cars are getting close to fly-by-wire..) and imminent death, rather than a system where those in control of te servers can see what regions you've requested map updates for? :P Personally I don't care. I'm quite happy to tell people I'm off to France for a holiday this week, I'm not afraid they're going to send an assas

    • by PriceIke (751512)

      Dollars to donuts that a Microsoft Sync-equipped vehicle will refuse to work with an iPod. (Even if you buy an Alpine head unit or other iPod-friendly device.)

      Anybody tried this?

      • by Zerth (26112)

        I've got one and my wife's Ipod works just fine in it. I just use a 2.5" USB external hard drive. It doesn't handle OGG, but I've yet to connect a device to it that didn't work. And if I did find one, I could just use the line input, which works with everything with a headphone jack.

        On the other hand, I've had it go completely silent on me twice(not locked up, interface still responsive, just 0 sound output despite being turned all the way up) that could only be fixed by pulling a fuse.

      • by SScorpio (595836)

        I don't have an iPod but the Sync user forums have people using them. They are also on the list of supported devices http://www.syncmyride.com/OWN/SUPPORTCONTENT/PDF/IOP_MEDIA_V100_US_EN.pdf [syncmyride.com]

        The iPod does need to be connected via a special mode that allows Sync to control it and stream the media through the USB interface. This allows it to play the protected tracks. It supports most normal MP3 players that function as a flash drive and I am current using it with a USB thumbdrive with MP3s on it.

        Sync also

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jim_Maryland (718224)
      Actually it seems to be closer to OnStar by GM's [onstar.com] Information/Convenience Services or Virtual Adviser options than Apple. I'm guessing the Zune tie in will be closer to what Apple has done with HD radio devices to allow for "tagging" content for later purchase.
  • Of course! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Corporate Troll (537873) * on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:51AM (#24385311) Homepage Journal

    It's going to be as big as tablet computing, I tell you!

    As someone who drives a 8.5 year old car (and is still happy with it) without a board-computer like the ones Microsoft sells, I still don't see the need for one. I do have a "board-computer" but it only calculates l/100km, driven time, and stuff like that. I don't think it uses an operating system.

    In-car entertainment is something I cannot comprehend. If you've got kids they most certainly have a Gameboy or something like that, or they can read a book. That's what I did when I was a kid doing long trips (Okay, it was a Game Gear, but that's not a big difference). On short trips enterainment systems shouldn't even be turned on.

    The only value I could see is a GPS system, but that really doesn't have to be based on Windows. Even then, in the 14 years I drive, I have rarely felt the need for a GPS. The few times I was in a foreign city without a map (and if you got there, you make sure you actually have a map *grin*).

    Anyway, I know this is just my opinion and my needs are surely not reflected in what "Joe Driver" needs. Now get off my lawn!

    • Re:Of course! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:07AM (#24385667) Journal

      My thoughts on this is that GPS is almost always completely worthless to me. I almost never go anywhere that I don't know where it is. I don't travel much any more, except locally, and when I do travel a two dollar map (or a free one from Google) tells me where to go.

      My kids are grown, so I have no use for in-car movies and games, even if I did do a lot of travelling.

      My car is an '02, and it has primitive computers that tell me things like my gas mileage, etc.

      But some of the things Microsoft is advertising for cars, like changing the radio station or choosing an MP3 by voice, would interest me if anybody but Microsoft was building them. The other drivers are annoying enough, I don't need Microsoft's bass-ackwards inyerfaces pissing me off even more.

      Okay, it was a Game Gear, but that's not a big difference. Now get off my lawn!

      Damn, dude, thanks for making me feel so old. My youngest daughter was two when the Game Gear came out! I used a slide rule in high school. Pocket calculators cost millions of dollars and took whole buildings to house when I was a kid.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Damn, dude, thanks for making me feel so old. My youngest daughter was two when the Game Gear came out

        If it helps, I got my Game Gear when I was 16 or so. ;-) I also owned an Atari Portfolio. No, and I didn't get them "just like" that like kids get Gameboys these days. (Are there even any kids left that don't have a Gameboy DS?!?)

        But some of the things Microsoft is advertising for cars, like changing the radio station or choosing an MP3 by voice, would interest me

        So the kids are annoyed in the back (yes,

      • Microsoft's bass-ackwards inyerfaces

        Hah, that's either very clever or a very appropriate typo. Possibly both :-).

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:53AM (#24385347) Homepage Journal

    I want to retain control of my car, thank you very much, and adding a bunch of so called 'var computers' is not going to do that.

    Keep your grubby mitts off my vehicle.

    • I want to retain control of my car, thank you very much, and adding a bunch of so called 'var computers' is not going to do that.

      Keep your grubby mitts off my vehicle.

      It's far too late for that. You "lost" control of your cars in the early 80's, when they started using computers to regulate everything from fuel flow to your transmission. The only difference now is that you can actually see the computer interface.

      • I personaly have lost nothing, i can remove the ECM from any car i buy or completely reprogram it, replace the EFI with a carb, drive manual transmissions, etc. You also dont know the age of the chassis/body of the car i normally drive.

        So please only speak for yourself when you claim ive lost control of *my* car.

  • With all these electric cars, when will they put in something really useful instead of this flaky electronic shit, especially from MS?

    • With all these electric cars, when will they put in something really useful instead of this flaky electronic shit, especially from MS?

      Actually, it turns out that these things (automotive entertainment systems0 actually have to be extremely reliable. Windows Embedded for Automotive has to be way more robust than regular Windows Embedded, for example. The pressure comes from the car manufacturers themselves, not the public.

      The reason is quite simply, if the system fails within the warranty period, it's a warranty repair. Warranty repairs are expensive, especially with prices dropping and margins thinning. Like the technology sector, a profit or a loss can be made simply by the amount of warranty work that needs to be done. (As a side benefit, people perceive a car that has to be in the shop to be of way lower quality, even if it's in the shop because the entertainment system keeps dying). Anyone remember the classic VW radio with the anti-theft that keeps going off on the slightest electrical spike?

      Here's the other nasty thing about automotive systems - the parts must be available for years after the model is discontinued. With external DVD players, aftermarket stereos/DVD players, etc., it's not a big deal since the owner can buy a new one. But that new in-dash GPS/radio/climate control/etc. unit, if it breaks within that time period, it has to be replaced. (Think about all those 5 year "bumper to bumper" warranties, too). Given how fast technology moves, it's actually quite difficult to design a system and still have parts available for it 5-10 years after it was made.

      • They just need to make the newer ones work in the old cars so you can put in a new system 3-5 years later.

      • by Tim99 (984437) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:37AM (#24386281)

        Actually, it turns out that these things (automotive entertainment systems0 actually have to be extremely reliable. Windows Embedded for Automotive has to be way more robust than regular Windows Embedded, for example. The pressure comes from the car manufacturers themselves, not the public.

        We wish... I have spent many happy hours in QANTAS business class watching the Windows CE based in-flight entertainment system rebooting, and rebooting, and rebooting - You got to see a Windows CE error screen for minutes at a time. The last occasion it it happened to us, they gave us refunds/gifts to the value of $700 as the system was out all the way from Singapore to Frankfurt. One of the nice cabin crew told me that it happened regularly, and that the experience had put her off Windows - She had just bought an Apple Mac. Anecdotal, but still frightening.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jimicus (737525)

          Actually, it turns out that these things (automotive entertainment systems0 actually have to be extremely reliable. Windows Embedded for Automotive has to be way more robust than regular Windows Embedded, for example. The pressure comes from the car manufacturers themselves, not the public.

          We wish... I have spent many happy hours in QANTAS business class watching the Windows CE based in-flight entertainment system rebooting, and rebooting, and rebooting - You got to see a Windows CE error screen for minutes at a time. The last occasion it it happened to us, they gave us refunds/gifts to the value of $700 as the system was out all the way from Singapore to Frankfurt. One of the nice cabin crew told me that it happened regularly, and that the experience had put her off Windows - She had just bought an Apple Mac. Anecdotal, but still frightening.

          I saw something similar on a Virgin flight - only their in-flight entertainment system was Linux based. The kernel kept on booting, failing to start anything useful, giving up and rebooting.

          From what I could tell, it looked like there was some sort of corruption to the root fs and the designers had failed to account for the possibility that power to non-essential systems (eg. entertainment) might be cut at awkward moments. Which we all know NEVER happens on an aircraft.

          Bottom line: I don't care whether i

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Belaj (1073748) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:54AM (#24385371)
    Deploy airbag? [Cancel | Allow]
  • by xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:54AM (#24385375)

    Even if the "car" as we know it is disappearing, Microsoft's work should transfer over nicely to whatever replaces it. I doubt there's much about Microsoft's system that assumes an internal combustion engine. If the car should die, the need for people to get from A to B does not die with it. Maybe more people will be taking electric cars, or trains, or some weird sci-fi individual self-navigating capsules in a mesh of tubes. In all of those cases, Microsoft's software would still have a place. Seems like a promising investment to me.

  • Yay, disconnect! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:55AM (#24385395) Homepage Journal

    There's such a disconnect between what people experience in their cars and what they experience in the rest of their lives.'"

    Good. I want that disconnect when people are driving half-ton pieces of metal that could kill someone. You think cell phones are distracting? Jus' picture someone trying to reply to a flamewar... in rush hour...

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      YOu want that disconnect? get a bike.

      I love it, no cellphone ringing, no radio, just wind and me flipping car and SUV drivers off that do not think or are blind.

      Nothing freaks out a moron executive in his Saab when you knock on his window and ask what his problem is.

  • Obligatory story ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by photonic (584757) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:56AM (#24385427)
    Before anyone is going to post the story about Bill Gates and the director of GM about cars crashing 3 times a day: it never happened [snopes.com]...
  • Disconnect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:57AM (#24385451)
    There's such a disconnect between what people experience in their cars and what they experience in the rest of their lives

    .

    Probably because when people are in their cars they are driving around large, heavy, and potentially lethal, vehicles. Now Microsoft wants those people to be distracted by unreliable Microsoft software.

  • Finally! (Score:3, Funny)

    by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:58AM (#24385467)
    Finally, now the term "speed-hacking" can be applied outside the context of video games!
  • Sorry, I'd never buy a car with a MS computer in it. Call me bigoted or whatever. I just won't.

    • by Kingrames (858416)

      It looks like you're trying to make a left turn. *your windshield is covered up by a giant talking animated traffic cone* Would you like to make a three-point turn, a regular left turn, or a U-turn?

      • by mpe (36238)
        It looks like you're trying to make a left turn. *your windshield is covered up by a giant talking animated traffic cone* Would you like to make a three-point turn, a regular left turn, or a U-turn?

        Or would you rather hit the object/person which you would be able to see if you just had a regular piece of glass in front of you...
    • Well, I'd "never say never", but given the current state of things there's no way in the -foreseeable future- I'd buy a car with a Microsoft product in it that I was aware of, particularly one that made its presence known to me (e.g. an in-vehicle entertainment or user interface unit.)

        And I've sent Ford a message to that effect.

      dave

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      Sorry, I'd never buy a car with a MS computer in it. Call me bigoted or whatever. I just won't.

      You may not be offered a way to tell. The interface will almost certainly be highly custom to the brand, you probably will not know what is running the GUI.

  • experience?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcgam69 (994690) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:01AM (#24385543)
    There's such a disconnect between what people experience in their cars and what they experience in the rest of their lives.

    I have a novel idea: maybe we should focus on DRIVING while we're in the car.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) *

      I have a novel idea: maybe we should focus on DRIVING while we're in the car.

      And people like you are the reason that progress is so slow. Always doing the same thing, day in - day out. You need to open your horizons to new experiences.

      I feel a car analogy coming ...

      • And people like you are why I keep getting hit by people paying more attention to phone conversations/radios/text messages/gps/moving billboards/computers than to the ton and a half of metal they are piloting.

        • And people like you are why I keep getting hit by people paying more attention to phone conversations/radios/text messages/gps/moving billboards/computers than to the ton and a half of metal they are piloting.

          You sir, need to learn to drive defensively [youtube.com].

  • In my opinion, MS is late to this party. The electronic devices we want and use inside the car are, in order of importance, music players (radio/CD/MP3/8-track for all I care), GPS navigation, hands-free cell phone.

    All of those already exist and are available as add-ons, if not dealer options.

    Sure, it would be nice to have a central control point for all those devices, but it would be nice to have "digital convergence" in my living room with a central controller for my TV, DVD player, stereo, etc. "Would

    • Re:Late to the party (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bert64 (520050) <bert@s[ ]hdot.fi ... m ['las' in gap]> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:53AM (#24386655) Homepage

      Personally i'd prefer not to have digital convergence...

      What i want instead, are the separate systems...
      Multiple separate units that each do one function well and work together, allowing me to replace one piece at a time.

      I have a tape deck that is 20+ years old, a turntable that is 20+ years old (i have very little media to play on either of them anymore), a radio that's a year old (digital), a radio thats 10+ years old (analog), a cd player thats about 10 years old, a streaming media player that's a couple of months old, several games consoles etc etc, all connected through an amplifier that's around 5 years old, and a TV that's less than 1 year.
      I replace it piece by piece as i need new stuff, i have very few tapes or vinyl records, but i do listen to them occasionally so buying a modern all in one system that didn't support them at all would be a pain. Also as stuff gets replaced it's repurposed, my old TV is in the bedroom for instance.

  • Yes... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:06AM (#24385645) Journal

    >There's such a disconnect between what people experience in their cars and what they experience in the rest of their lives.'"

    Yes. My car doesn't suddenly quit for no reason.

  • by GregPK (991973) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:06AM (#24385651)

    I was late today, My car gave me the red ring of death this morning. I called it in, and they tried to charge me 100 dollars to read the error code that a headlight is bad.

  • by Bazman (4849) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:08AM (#24385687) Journal

    ...the first blue windscreen of death. Literally.

    ['windscreen' is what you across the pond call the 'windshield']

    • by LMacG (118321)

      > ['windscreen' is what you across the pond call the 'windshield']

      Oh thank god, I can finally understand that Depeche Mode song.

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kelbear (870538) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:15AM (#24385831)

    "Detroit native Tom Philips, the new unit leader said 'There are a lot of technologies that are two to three years out that are going to provide even more connectivity and innovation. There's such a disconnect between what people experience in their cars and what they experience in the rest of their lives.'"

    Maybe, just maybe, the reason for the disconnect is that we're in a giant heap of metal hurtling at 70mph amid a bevy of other giant heaps of metal.

    I think we should preserve that disconnect.

  • by dudeinco (1313377) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:21AM (#24385949)
    I own a car computer in my car (and have for the past 2 1/2 years) with a touch screen monitor custom built into the dash. After two years of running this, I can honestly say that the most stable part of this was the operating system (Windows XP). I had trouble with the hardware, had a hard drive die, had many issues with the software powering it, but the one thing that did not crap out on me was the operating system. For those of you questioning why a car entertainment system, the answer is simple: thousands of songs (30 gigs worth) at your finger tips, an easy to use display that actually displays, searches, and catalogs your music while displaying the album art is unbeatable when you have a commute or take a long journey somewhere. From a music standpoint alone, it is completely worth it. Also being of the male persuasion, I would prefer not to ask for directions and find it quite cryptic when most people give directions, so having my built in pc-based navigation unit is priceless as well. As far as pictures and movies in your car, who cares? It's like having pictures and movies in your IPOD - for what?? That part is pointless, but I guess it is nice to have. I guess for all of you that have harsh comments either wish you had a car pc, but could never afford it, or just have some juvenile MS flaming fetish. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bert64 (520050)

      How long does it take to boot? How much did it cost?
      A tomtom will play music, and i believe there's ways to connect them to your sound system instead of the build in speaker, it will also navigate for you.
      For the functions an in car computer needs to do, windows is just ridiculously over complicated, expensive and bloated. That's why tomtom devices run a stripped down linux.

  • Microsoft, Automobile Division: giving new meaning to "Blue Screen of Death."

    Enjoy your ride.
  • by WillRobinson (159226) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:23AM (#24385997) Journal

    I have a tom tom, and love having gps when I travel. Being a technical astute person. What I would like to have is a system, with gps (1), music (mp3) (2) and radio control (software radio) (3), maybe cell phone control (4), all tied with wireless so when I pull up to my house I could sync all items, gps maps, music, os updates etc.

    Now that I think of it, I guess just a nice little low power pc running of a 4 gig card with no hard drive to be the firewall and manage the wireless connections to the car and a little hub would allow everything that is existing to be tied together.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimicus (737525)

      Maybe you've got a more basic or an older unit or something but AFAIK most half-decent modern in-car GPS systems support bluetooth phone coupling and can play MP3s from an SD card. Only thing that might be missing is the radio.

  • It looks like you're travelling down the freeway.
    Would you like help?
    - Get Help Driving down the freeway.
    - Continue Driving without help.
    - Don't show this tip again.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Frankly I was surprised that Microsoft never entered the car GPS market. They have their excellent MapPoint product; if they made a car GPS that was built off of that technology and had integration with the pc product (an interface to load planned routes from the PC version from a USB stick or something would be nice) then I personally think that would be pretty awesome.

  • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:41AM (#24386371) Homepage

    if control interfaces and APIs would become standardized.

    Everything is designed for i$foo. My head unit can read mp3s from a flash drive, but it doesn't do it optimally unless you use their software to put stuff on there (kenwood).

    I also own a sansa, which I love. It was $100, so I don't care if I break it of lose it (the point of a portable player that doesn't do anything else). And I don't need anything special to put the music on it. It's just a mass storage device to my OS (which isn't OSX or M$).

    It sure would be nice if I could just plug my sansa into my car, or anybody else's, and queue up the music. I'm sure apple's patenting makes this a dream. Instead, I have things in 3 locations: the home server, the sansa, and the hard drive that stays in the car, and if I want to control something out of the box, the only option is Apple hardware, which doesn't easily interface with anything else that I use computer-wise.

  • by Wingsy (761354) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @10:45AM (#24386469)
    Oh great! Not only do I have to wait for my TV, my cell phone, my set-top box, and even my scope to boot up, now I'll have to wait for my CAR TOO??? Used to, all you had to do when buying a new car was to kick the tires and take it for a test drive. Now we'll have to benchmark it before making a decision.
  • Segmentation fault in process Antilock Brakes. Your system will now reboot - please be patient.
  • I hope they learn (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSpatulaOfLove (966301) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @11:06AM (#24386899)
    ...From past mistakes about how long a car is actually on the road compared to how long a computer is considered usable. We look back and laugh at cars that came with cassette tapes, 8-tracks, and god forbid, vinyl record players but they were innovative and useful for their times.

    If M$ is serious about getting into this business, they need to take a lot of notes from the auto industry on longevity and modular design that makes the core easily replaceable as technology shifts. While full integration is great initially, it becomes cumbersome later when the changes come.

    I can cite one example where Ford dropped the ball in in-car entertainment design. 1990's and early 2000's Taurus (and other models) had this full integrated, non-standard audio system that encompassed the entire center console, and when the buyer was sick of hearing the crappy audio system it was an absolute nightmare to back it out and put a standard DIN headunit in the car - not to mention the expensive and ugly aftermarket dash kit that was required.

    Now, on the other hand, the Sync technology in the new Fords is very well done. Being a jaded anti-M$ person, I didn't want to like it, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well done it is. Sure, it has its flakiness, and the display on Ford's head units are dismal 1980's technology, but the phone integration, voice prompts, and usability make that pain go away. While it could use some improvement, I have to give hats off to Ford & M$ for a well done execution.
  • No, no, no! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindSword (596780) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @12:39PM (#24388583)
    I bought a NavMan which uses Windows and which is a pile of wank. They seriously expect me to trust my life even more on this rubbish? Questions: 1) Where do I get an open source car? 2) Do I have to connect it to the Internet for Patch Tuesday if I use Windows? 3) Who will be the first to die in a card because of a BSOD? 4) Will there be a "Clippy" to ask me that "I appear to be driving"?

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