Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

Summary: Two weeks of car shopping has driven home two big points for me: User interface matters. Car companies aren't all that good at it. Enter a big opportunity for Apple.

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TOPICS: Apple
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Two weeks of car shopping has driven home two big points for me: User interface matters. Car companies aren't all that good at it.

Gallery: Latest car tech missing Apple?

In my tour of test drives, I've discovered that car companies obviously think the following:

At the end of this car UI adventure, I was pretty happy to see something very plain. Just give me a button or two and let me drive. Simply put, less is more.

Hence this brain fart about Apple's next growth market. Here's the general idea:

  1. Some savvy automaker does a deal with Apple to go for collaboration on the car's interior. This partnership would go beyond the standard "plug in your iPod" trick. Apple designers would do the UI and buttons for the car interior. Think industrial design meets Audi.
  2. The auto-Apple deal would be exclusive. Taking a page from the iPhone playbook, Apple would start this auto partnership with a 4-year exclusive. Since Volkswagen can't quite get traction in the U.S. that's a good place to start.
  3. Apple could use the exclusive auto deal to make it so it could pop the iPad or iPod into a dashboard. The App Store would have an auto section.

While much of the focus on Apple's next market revolves around the living room, the automobile could be much more compelling. Would this Apple-auto arrangement actually happen? Who knows? There would surely be a culture clash. What I do know is that automakers could use some design help and Apple would fetch a premium on profits if it got into the car-tech game.

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Topic: Apple

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116 comments
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  • Apple has applied for three patents

    And has the gull to request Android within their claim. Something that DOES infringe on Patents related to Android and the OHA team.<br><br><br>[APPLICATION] APPLICATION COMMUNICATION WITH EXTERNAL ACCESSORIES<br>US Pat. 12720446 - Filed Mar 9, 2010 - Apple Inc.<br><br>[APPLICATION] ACCESSORY AND MOBILE COMPUTING DEVICE COMMUNICATION USING AN APPLICATION ...<br>US Pat. 12720349 - Filed Mar 9, 2010 - Apple Inc.<br><br>[APPLICATION] ACCESSORY INTERFACE TO PORTABLE MEDIA DEVICE USING SESSIONS<br>US Pat. 12720489 - Filed Mar 9, 2010 - Apple Inc<br><br>These should not be granted for many reasons. There are many car manufacturers that have already incorporated this tech, so prior art comes into play.<br><br>Regardless, there are over 1000 other applicants prior to Apple (Seiko among them) that have applied similar patents. Only Apple has the gull to claim Android.<br><br>Google HAS 34 patents, and has applied for hundreds more in this field, not to mention MS and Sync. But the key component that Apple will not be able to get away from is the fact that the Google also has innumerable patents regarding speech based interaction within the car, something that Apples three applications would lack or infringe upon.<br><br>On these merits alone Apple can't really control much here. But we will see what actually happens.
    Uralbas
    • Nit pick...

      @Uralbas

      It's "gall", actually. As to Apple's patents I have no opinion, other than the general "software is mathematics and thus is not patentable".

      Method patents are dumb too.
      wolf_z
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @wolf_z
        Agreed on all counts!
        rossdav
      • &quot;Software is mathematics, and thus is not patenable&quot;

        @wolf_z, are you quoting someone? You have that statement in quotes.
        What does mathematics have to do with it? Most products on the market are created using mathematics.
        Should all devices be not patenable, because they are based on mathematics? What delineates between patenable and not patenable? The work in constructing something, maintaining it and improving it, or the raw materials?
        Why would raw materials count toward whether something can be patented?
        I know many are against the idea, but building a software system involves the same kind of work (not simply mathematics by any stretch) as building a motherboard. Why should the "design" of something be patenable? It's just mathematics, and therefore not patentable, correct?
        xuniL_z
      • algorithms, not mathematics

        All software is an algorithm, and thus is not supposed to be patentable. But the USPTO has given up enforcing its own rules. It is now a tool to be used by rich corporations to steal the ideas and life's work of America's innovators; exactly the opposite of what it's supposed to be.

        And as far as Apple is concerned: This article is nauseating and outdated. The pathetic fawning over Apple's supposed UI expertise simply reveals ignorance or laziness on the part of the author. Have you actually USED the Mac OS or iOS? Let's see... in Mac OS and numerous Apple applications you have a UI based on Easter eggs... secret controls that only appear if you happen to roll the cursor over them. This should be near the top of any list of UI "don'ts": Don't require the user to sweep the cursor over every pixel on the screen, searching for hidden elements.

        Also, don't base your UI on unmarked, undiscoverable hotkeys or "gestures." Apple insisted that a two-button mouse is "too scary" for its customers, but then omits Delete keys from its laptops and expects users to guess at an unmarked, two-handed hotkey to delete a character. Yes, the key that says "delete" on an Apple laptop is really a Backspace key.

        What else... a recent iOS update turned the rotation-lock switch on the iPad into a Mute switch. But the switch is about two millimeters away from A VOLUME CONTROL. So now you don't have a rotation-lock switch on this device that's also supposed to serve as an E-book reader. Have fun reading that in bed or on a flat surface.

        This is a great example of the moronic detachment from the real world that dictates Apple's UI decisions. Why do you need an emergency switch to shut an iPad up? Because you're taking it to the theater and might suddenly get a call on it? Uh yeah, except... iPads don't get calls. In fact, the chances of an iPad emitting an unforeseen noise are extremely low. And yet we need the emergency mute switch, Apple?

        How about that brilliant spelling correction on the iPhone, which FORCES corrections on you unless you opt out, over and over and over. Meanwhile, everyone else understands that spelling suggestions should be presented for the user to opt IN.

        Then there's the 1980s inverse color scheme in Mac OS, which you can't change. Windows and Unix systems have had user-definable color schemes for about 20 years. But the vaunted Mac forces users to read black text off the surface of a light bulb all day.

        It just goes on and on. If you put Apple in charge of an automotive UI, you'll have to press the emergency brake, accelerator, and seat-recliner button at the same time to turn on the headlights. And also answer a few confirmation dialogs.
        dgurney
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @wolf_z <br>Let me put it this way: I wouldn't mind having Apple in my <a href="http://www.gmcconversionvans.com/classb.htm">class b rv</a>. Apple is one of my favorite companies and I use a lot of gadgets manufactured by them. Go go Apple!!
        jamesTT
    • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

      @Uralbas

      because Apple also does it using hardware and it's own software API's linked to it's 30 pin dock connector, which is already available all over the place, including cars.

      What hardware does Google make?

      Think I'll head down the beach and look at the gulls.
      alsobannedfromzdnet
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @alsobannedfromzdnet Communicating with hardware through a software API is not unique. How the hell do you think a printer works?
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @alsobannedfromzdnet Gulls! I love it. Hahaha
        lelandhendrix@...
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        "30 pin dock connector, which is already available all over the place"<br><br>Uh, no. And this idiotic jumping through hoops to interface with an iPod through USB is just sad. These portable devices ALREADY HAVE SCREENS. Why would I want to duplicate their functionality on another screen, with probably an inferior display? Not to mention the slowness of querying the music database over USB.<br><br>The obvious solution is to provide an audio line in and a simple cradle for the iPod or iPhone on the dashboard. Oh, but that wouldn't be a $3000 option. Better to look stupid than deliver value to the customer.
        dgurney
  • It sounds nice but...

    I do not want to drag my laptop out to my car every time the car needs to be connected to iTunes.
    CPPCrispy
    • And Title 35, United States Code, Section 102, which states:

      "A person shall be entitled to a patent unless...." among others constraints and many definitions:

      Walter J. Blenko, Jr. clearly defines a few concepts here:

      Search for:

      "Considering What Constitutes Prior Art in the United States"

      1 A person is NOT entitled to a patent if it is "known or used by others in this country, or was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country" before the application date the of invention by the applicant for the patent. I

      2 a patent is rejecet if: "the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States."

      3. An inventor is barred from obtaining a patent if he or she patents the invention outside of the United States before the date of the patent application in the United States, and if the application outside the United States was filed more than 12 months before filing the application in the United States.

      Honda / Porche / Mercury / Ford / GM / VW and many other manufacturers have been using HUDs and many display technologies in the past just to cover the three applications stated by Apple.

      I wonder why the patent office and courts hardly use these items when patent litigations are concerned.
      Uralbas
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @Uralbas

        Umm . . . what does this have to do with what this person said?

        Flagged.
        CobraA1
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @CobraA1 I bet it was one of those terrible ZDNet bugs where your reply gets inserted in the wrong thread.
        snoop0x7b
    • Why would you need to drag a laptop to the car?

      @CPav ... the car should have a wireless and connect to your home router - or indeed any router it can find - and grab updates automatically.
      Currently I sync iPod and plug it in to a dock in my glove compartment. But if my car stereo had an iPod in it, I would set it up to be able to work with my wireless router and let it grab its own updates.
      HollywoodDog
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @HollywoodDog Yeah, I can't wait for the car viruses to start.
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        @HollywoodDog Wireless internet in a car = reeeaaally bad idea. I agree with snoop0x7b, if you have wifi in your car that's constantly searching for access points somebody could potentially hijack your car, or at least the accessories in it.
        wcecsharp@...
      • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

        "if you have wifi in your car that's constantly searching for access points somebody could potentially hijack your car"<br><br>That is moronic. You probably believed Independence Day's premise that invading aliens would most likely have dial-up numbers published, so you could use an ancient Mac laptop and a modem to take down their defenses with a virus.<br><br>It's iToonces, the driving virus!
        dgurney
  • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

    I don't want MS, Apple or Google in my car. I want a simple in car stereo with decent speakers that I can replace with an aftermarket system if I don't like it without having a big hole in my center console
    jfp
    • RE: Apple could dominate car tech (if it wanted)

      @jfp
      Those days are already gone. All this high tech in cars is great except that people own cars for 5 - 10 years. The tech will be massively out of date and getting replacement parts will be either very expensive or impossible.
      BoloMKXXVIII