What TomTom suit may really be about

What TomTom suit may really be about

Summary: Combine voice recognition with only slightly more accurate GPS technology and a drunk can get behind the wheel, blow a .12 and have said vehicle automatically get him home, perhaps running the hazard lights as a warning to others.



Microsoft sees cars as the next frontier for computing.

We're going well beyond technology that can control the engine or keep you from skidding in the slush. We're moving beyond telling your car to raise the temperature or play the latest from the Scrayper Boyz.

Combine voice recognition with only slightly more accurate GPS technology and a drunk can get behind the wheel, blow a .12 and have said vehicle automatically get him home, perhaps running the hazard lights as a warning to others.

Once your software is at the heart of that application, then it's bound to be adapted by governments and traffic agencies for traffic control worldwide.

Question is, will proprietary or open source software be at the heart of that future?

Proprietary companies like Microsoft say it should be proprietary because they can innovate. As chief strategist Craig Mundie said at the company's TechFest last week:

 "More than ever we're committed to this investment, enabling our researchers and developers to continue advancing technology for challenging societal problems and pushing the boundaries of computing in exciting ways."

Question is, how big a market head start does this innovation deserve? Open source says a year or two, patent law says 20 or so.

Where does TomTom fit in? If GPS can remain proprietary open source will lack the enabling technology with which to get into the game. If Microsoft can keep open source out of future cars, it can control them all -- foreign and domestic.

That seems a much more important point to protect than keeping GPS out of Netbooks.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Can't wait for my TomTom 730 GPS to arrive!

    I compared Garmin to TomTom and purchased the TomTom 730 (instead of the Garmin nuvi 760). They are 95% comparable with the following key exceptions:

    Map updates are free with TomTom, Garmin you must pay more Microsoft royalties.

    Garmin has way to much Microsoft built into their unit - the main reason why I can't go this route (I put my money where my mouth is - and that's anywhere MS is not (hence my move to Apple years ago)).

    Microsoft is just way too busy sticking it's fingers everywhere. They can't keep this up. Why doesn't Microsoft just give up their tactic to take over all areas of computing and concentrate on their primary busienss.

    Current Microsoft stock levels means an investor has not made a cent from MS stock (including dividends) unless they purchased that stock at any time wayyy back before February 1998.

    On the other hand if you invested in Apple at any time before January 2007 you have made money on Apple stock. That's because Apple is focused whereas Microsoft is 'all over the map' so to speak.

    No More Microsoft Software Ever!
    • Curious handle

      "No More Microsoft Software Ever!" writes that he bought a TomTom GPS unit.

      I find this curious, since the only way to access said TomTom unit for the (free) updates is ... a Microsoft system.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Not if you have WINE

  • Open source software be at the heart of that future?

    Oh yeah... we need open source software in the scenario you described because nothing will be safer than having part time hackers messing with their vehicles' automatic "drive me home" software.

    Really Dana, did you take two seconds to contemplate things?

    Maybe we could go one further. Maybe if the pilot on your next flight doesn't like his autopilot, he could whip out his laptop, compile some code, and make his own mods before the layover is over!
    • Don't be a moron :\

      Open source doesn't mean "hacked by average joe." Open source can have standards applied to the code just as with anything proprietary. The only notable difference is that with open source the details aren't a secret.

      When it's your life in the hands of that software do you really want more secrets or fewer secrets? Think about it.

      The many eyes theory looks much better when we are talking about mission critical software.
      • not a secret...

        That makes me feel so much better. The average
        joe can't do anything with it, but the
        terrorists can just download source code and
        set to work making a virus that will take down
        the entire system. In this case open source is
        obviously a better choice than a proprietary
        system kept under wraps.
        • It is...

          "In this case open source is obviously a better choice than a proprietary system kept under wraps. "
          ...because you have so many more people working on it. A proprietary organization like Microsoft isn't going to be able to keep up. Just because the source code is available doesn't mean it's more vulnerable, if anything it's less because of the public scrutiny.
    • And yet IBM relies on the Linux kernel, written by part time hackers

      I can see all those people running mission critical applications in Linux, hacking the kernel and recompiling in a hurry to solve some emergency and save some lives.
      InAction Man
    • To croberts:

      You just informed me and everyone who visits this blog that you have no solid argument against Open Source. If you did, you would have presented it but instead you resort to off-the-wall fantasies about Open Source.

      I suspect Dana did take about 2 seconds to contemplate his article, that's all he would need. You, however, would need a life time to understand that Open Source is good for you. Your punishment for attacking Open Source with proprietary ignorance will be to spend the rest of your days chained to proprietary software.
      • Why don't think about it too

        If openness is generally a desired state of affairs, why stop at software?

        Why not freely hand out receipes for explosives and encourage people to make their own in the bathtub?

        Seriously. We have laws against the latter. Why is software such a free-for-all?

        I'm not trying to be difficult, but no one on these forums ever has a good reason as to why software is such a special case.

        I don't accept at all that open source is good for me in all instances. In some cases, I would say a sealed ROM chip with 5 guys on the entire planet having access is better.
        • Thomas Jefferson

          [i]Why not freely hand out receipes for explosives and encourage people to make their own in the bathtub?[/i]

          Actually, the formulas and detailed processes for a great number of explosives, neurotoxins, etc. are all readily available. Over the Net, at your local library, etc.

          It's one of those "freedom of the Press" things that free societies do.

          [i]Seriously. We have laws against the latter.[/i]

          Male Bovine Excrement.

          [i]Why is software such a free-for-all?[/i]

          Why not? It's one of those "free expression" things that free societies do. If you don't like it, don't write any books, articles, poems, software, whatever under those terms.

          It's not that hard to figure out.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
  • I bought a TomTom because it's not based on MS

    Seriously, I bought the TT because they use Linux, not the WinCE like their competitors.

    I never use MS products. Pure and simple.
    • Me Too!

      None of my money goes to MS....period!
      No More Microsoft Software Ever!
  • I wouldn't want MS software running my car!

    I wouldn't want windows crash to have a whole new meaning.
    • RE: I wouldn't want M$ software running my car!!

      NOT ME either!!

      Imagine seeing on your Heads Up Display as you jam on the brakes to avoid a semi tractor that pulled out in front of you:

      [b]Microsoft Anti Lock Braking[/b] has experienced a problem and needs to close. Please bring your vehicle in for service.
      • That's not that far from the truth...

        A gentleman I know well had a problem with his "brake by wire" equipped luxury automobile a couple years ago (maybe 2005?). He was driving along and his dash went red and the message "critical brake failure, stop the vehicle" or something along those lines appeared. When he pressed the brake the pedal went to the floor. He slowed and pulled over, letting the car coast to a stop, and called the vendor's 1-800 number. Because of freezing weather they said it would be about 3 hours before help would arrive. After waiting for a few minutes, he decided to start the car, and found the brake pedal returned pressure. He drove home carefully and the brakes worked fine the whole way. The next day, after driving most of the way to the dealership, the same message and behavior happened, so he parked the car and called a taxi.
        The facts are that his brakes actually did work, but the software had no simple way of recovering short of a reboot and so they disabled the brakes as a result. While I have no knowledge of where the ABS software came from, and I would seriously doubt it was Windows based, unfortunately this does remind me too much of Microsoft's methodology of coding.
  • About MS new revenue frontier

    MS profitability has hit a wall. Their effort at producing
    profits from anything but windows and office has failed.
    Their ability to abuse the windows monopoly has been
    restricted due to antitrust oversight. The answer is to use
    their pathetic patents (result of a large legal team) to
    leverage revenue out of the competition.

    MS has already signed up all those it could threaten
    without taking legal action, now they're moving onto the
    next bunch. See it for what it is.
    Richard Flude
  • RE: What TomTom suit may really be about

    the cat is out of the corral. where seldom is heard an encouraging word. the dirty deed was did.

    TomTom just signed a major deal with Toyota to deliver next-generation semi-embedded GPS units. claw that back octoshaft! :-)))

  • What the suit is about.

    Microsoft is busy trying to license their "IP" with as many companies as they can as a hedge against irrelevancy should Open Source and Linux specifically continue to eat into their marketshare. RedHat was not intimidated in 2006, MS backed down. TomTom had the nerve to reject the unending royalties being paid to MS, and while the iron is hot (recession AND a much smaller company) turn the screws and get them to agree, in secret, all unproven, the license their "IP".

    The last thing the computing industry needs, and the entire electronics industry needs, just as it is breaking free of MS as the controller of all computing is an unending royalty "protection fee" scheme being funneled into one company. I hope TomTom holds it's own, (they have already contacted the FSF and the OIN), and the open source community finds a way to get involved. If there is this "mystery IP" there, let's get rid of it. If it doesn't exist, let's prove it, but get the albatros of unending "royalty tax" out of the equation. If/when it happens, I will be contributing to the TomTom defense fund.

    Think it is unheard of, well, remember SCO's (in)famous letters trying to extort fees from companies. I seem to remember MS paid it's fee in an attempt to lend credibility to the scam.

    • What the suit is about.

      Well said!

      When I read a story about people running obsolete, unsupported versions of Windows, I think of a family, trying to provide computer technology for their school-aged children, I want to scream! They could be running community supported Linux for FREE.

      I had the opportunity to view a Google presentation which I summarize in one, very-long-sentence:

      Did you know that the first, ip, wireless VOIP, call was made from a packet-radio van in San Francisco, on November 22, 1977, by DOD Arpanet engineers to UCLA via Europe, with a short hop to a satellite.

      I have tried to replicate Octoshaft logic. This state of mind is troubling; I don't advise you to try this at home:

      FAT32 is a disk operating system --> Disks spin --> Tires spin --> Cars run on tires --> TomTom is installing their GPS systems in cars --> Disks store data in FAT32 format --> SD cards store data is FAT32 format --> TomTom uses SD cards --> TomTom owes us money sunny $-)))