Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Marking over 5 years of putting HTML in production cars

Think back to when you realized the Internet was reaching beyond the desktop. Or better yet, when you realized it would touch every facet of your life. If you haven’t had that second revelation yet, perhaps you should read my post about the Twittering toilet.

For me, the realization occurred 11 years ago, when I signed up with QNX Software Systems. QNX was already connecting devices to the web, using technology that was light years ahead of anything else on the market. For instance, in the late 90s, QNX engineers created the “QNX 1.44M Floppy,” a self-booting promotional diskette that showcased how the QNX OS could deliver a complete web experience in a tiny footprint. It was an enormous hit, with more than 1 million downloads.

Embedding the web,
dot com style:

The QNX-powered Audrey
Also ahead of its time was the concept of a tablet computer that provided full web access. When I started at QNX, I was responsible for tablets, thin clients, and set-top boxes. The most successful of these pioneering devices was the 3COM Audrey kitchen tablet. It could send and receive email, browse the web, and sync to portable devices — incredibly sophisticated for the year 2000.

At the time, Don Fotsch, one of Audrey’s creators, coined the term “Internet Snacking” to describe the device’s browsing environment. The dot com crash in 2001 cut Audrey’s life short, but QNX maintained its focus on enabling a rich Internet experience in embedded devices, particularly those within the car.

The point of these stories is simple: Embedding the web is part of the QNX DNA. At one point, we even had multiple browser engines in production vehicles, including the Access Netfront engine, the QNX Voyager engine, and the OpenWave WAP Browser. In fact, we have had cars on the road with Web technologies since model year 2006.

With that pedigree in enabling HTML in automotive, we continue to push the envelope. We already enable unlimited web access with full browsers in BMW and other vehicles, but HTML in automotive is changing from a pure browsing experience to a full user experience encompassing applications and HMIs. With HTML5, this experience extends even to speech recognition, AV entertainment, rich animations, and full application environments — Angry Birds anyone?

People often now talk about “App Snacking,” but in the next phase of HTML 5 in the car, it will be "What’s for dinner?”!


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