Why Intel and BMW should develop an in-car computer

Interesting | January 4th, 2009 by 20

I know many of you might find this idea crazy, but allow me to share with you my thoughts on an Intel/BMW partnership in bringing …

I know many of you might find this idea crazy, but allow me to share with you my thoughts on an Intel/BMW partnership in bringing a full operational personal computer to our bimmers. First things first though, many of you might know by now that my background and academics were and are always intersecting with computers, technology, engineering in one word. I have been surrounded by “machines” most of my life and I live and breath technology.

So, the other day, going down the list of the advanced technology available in the new BMW 7 Series, the idea of having a personal computer on board the 7er became very appealing. One of the reasons is the discussion that I had at the L.A Auto Show with the BMW 7 Series Product Manager. His words on how many BMW customers see the new 7 Series as a limousine, where the interior comfort and usability needs to satisfy even their most demanding needs – those words – are stuck in my head. 

Of course, the new BMW 7 Series comes with a powerful and multi-functional entertaining system, but it’s missing the basic features of a personal computer or laptop. The mini-computer or notebook would ideally feature a touchscreen along with a laptop-style keyboard that will serve as an input device and mouse. Before we get into the functionalities and the need of a such in-car computer, who are the key players in this market, as far as providing a stable, energy efficient and high-computing platform?

Well, we have Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) , one of the companies that used to be my first choice as the CPU in a personal computer, and of course, Intel, the giant microprocessors company. Owning a few Intel computers in the past years and presently, including Home PCs, laptops and Tablet PCs, I find them to be the most suitable for this job. 

Their latest generation Core 2 Duo or the even newer and most performant CPU on the market, I7 (wiki) are the best option when it comes to mobile computing, due to their small footprint and sophistacated power management, very important things when it comes to a small size in-car entertainment system.

So, moving away from the technical aspects, the next question arises:

What is the purpose and why the need of an in-car mini-laptop or personal computer? 

Imagine this scenario: a fleet of 2009 BMW 7 Series is used in a limousine company that serves high-profile customers, people that always need to be connected to the Web or in-touch with other people. Also, there are many people out there that don’t drive their own BMW, but rather have a chauffeur at their service 24/7 – yes, I know, who wouldn’t want to drive the 7er?

Well, these customers  are in need of a personal computer at all time, regardless if they are flying, driving or taking a boat ride. The in-car computer could be used for Web browsing, emails, files and documents editing, video conferencing or simply, to be entertained during long trips. This could also apply to families with children that are taking long trips during the year and where a DVD-entertaining system might not suffice. 

And if the above points are not enough to convince you of the usefulness of an in-car laptop, then think about this: a wireless Sync service that will automatically or manually replicate and sync the files between your office or home computer and the BMW vehicle. This way, every single file you are working on, could be sent to the car and have access to it instantly. A feature that I will love to have while my significant other drives me from home to work in the “famous” Chicago rush hour. Yes, I know, being an workaholic is nothing to be proud of. 

Playing devil’s advocate here, some might argue that laptops and Smartphones would be enough to accomplish the above tasks. Sure, they could, but what would we find to be more comfortable and easy to use? Packing, unpacking the laptop, starting and shutting down your computer, buying an in-car power adapter and using a broadband card for internet access, OR….. the simple push of a button and the in-car computer is ready to roll and crunch tasks for us.

Smartphones, sure, great devices, love writing email on them, but absolutely useless for other tasks. The smaller screen size, computing speed and slower internet access are a turn off for any heavy technology user.

And the most important argument, BMW has already developed an advanced in-car entertainment system, ConnectedDrive, which could perform web browsing or can send and receive emails. But is that enough for our high-profile person mentioned above? Or the children looking for extensive entertainment?

The in-car laptop will use the fast 3G or EVDO networks from the cell phone providers. Intel’s newest platforms have built-in broadband capabilities that play nice with all the cellphone carriers. 

Of course, safety is an issue and the in-car computer will be available to passengers seating in the rear seats, where the mini computer will fit in perfectly, especially in the new 7 Series interior design. 

Pricing is a factor that cannot be neglected, but in my opinion, the price of an in-car computer could be the same, if not lower, than a regular iDrive Navigation system. 

I am anticipating the next question, why Intel? Because it was the first company that in 2001 mentioned the possibility of creating an in-car computer that will provide basic communication and navigation to full-on Internet-based entertainment and commerce systems. At that time, SUVs and minivans were the perfect candidates. 

This tell us that Intel had a vision that mobile computing will become extremely popular and will play an important role in our life. Two visionary companies, BMW and Intel, could really make this happen and change the way we interact with our cars and how we use them. 

P.S Disclaimer: I love Intel products and of course BMW, in case I didn’t make it obvious enough.