How about a jApp for my car?

Chris recently wrote about the jApps One in particular intriqued me: the Dukester a little java box that plays MP3s and can download other things. This fits very nicely with an idea I had a few years ago and always wondered why no one ever did it: good MP3 car stereos.

Car stereos are everywhere, yet they are so dumb. Of the ones that play mp3s You usually have to organize the data in your own directories and are restricted to the iso9660 filesystem. If it weren't for ID3 tags we'd probably still have to recognize each song by 8.3 filenames! What's wrong here?

Lets look at it from another side. Many steros have pretty LCD and OLED screens on them. Impressive visuals that do nothing more than show dolphins spinning in space. Why? They've got the processing power and a screen but no way to get anything useful onto these devices.

Enter the embedded JVM.

Manufacturers could embed a J2ME implementation in each device. When you pop in a normal CD nothing special happens but when you put in a burned CD with your favorite music on it a hidden track (or just an extra file) is read. This track contains a jar file with a custom program, ready to take advantage of the screen. Java code, written against an in-dash profile, runs seemlessly, storing any required data in a built in memory card (like on a PS2).

Imagine driving directions straight off a disk. An audio book with all of the features of a DVD. Video games. Reference material and headlines. You could even make an alarm clock and calendar with musical ques. Or, best of all, it could come with a special setup CD which contains a program to tweak and tune the entire audio system, all with onscreen menus.

This really wouldn't be very hard. We'd need a new J2ME profile for it, open so that all car stereo makers could adopt it. It would come with a sample disk with some programs and the documentation. The system never require updates because all code and extensions are stored on the disk. The main problem with a programmable device is getting the code onto it, but burnable CDs take care of all of that.

Though existing in dash car stereos cost 200 to sometimes 600$ they can't do more than a 70$ mp3 discman. Why? They are made in huge quantities and sold at a premium. Manufacturers fall all over themselves thinking of zany new features to try to beat their competitors. This seems like the perfect way to set them apart from the competition. What's the missing piece?

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Posted October 21st, 2003

Tagged: java