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OS for the “SmartCar”

August 30, 2010

Think about everything that is connected to the network…PCs, sure. Phones, yep. TVs, increasingly. CE devices like game consoles, tablets (iPads), blu-ray players… the list goes on and on (fortunately, no one has mentioned the internet-enabled toaster of the late 1990s).

But what about the car?

While everyone is getting caught up in the debate over who will rule the mobile device/mobile OS market, Apple/iOS vs Google/Android vs anyone else, I’m beginning to wonder which company will own the OS platform for the car.

Quick Google search revealed there are about twice as many mobile phones as there are cars in the US. Admittedly, these are very rough numbers drawn from a couple of random online sources, but they feel like they’re in the right general ballpark. So yes, there are a lot of mobile phones in the US, there are also a whole lotta cars and I bet a huge percentage of them aren’t on the network as of yet. So there is a lot of potential here.

As GigaOm explains:

While it’s still too early to tell exactly what this ecosystem will look like, one vision is that the car and the in-vehicle dashboard will act as the interface to the driver. That’s what the car companies — and vendors — are pushing for. An example would be OnStar, which is a branded, controlled environment brought to you by the auto maker.

The other vision of the connected car ecosystem uses the cell phone as the major interface. The cell phone GPS would be used for data, and the car would contain a charging port for the phone. The cell phone screen would house the application and the phone would sync with info from the car’s computer. Naturally, the phone companies like this particular set-up.

While some car apps could probably run off of a mobile phone, my bet is that the car will become its own platform, with its own specifically designed OS and apps.  (Although the car would probably run on the already overloaded cell-network; OnStar runs on Verizon in US, Bell Canada in Canada)

It looks like Microsoft and Google have the jump here but it is still very early days. The battle for the smartphone is fun to watch for now, but it feels like the next battle is who will drive away with the “smartcar.”

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