Tuesday, March 22, 2011

OnStar "MyNetwork" demo at TED includes Tuner2

At CES 2011, OnStar debuted their 4G concept car at the Verizon booth. The OnStar service integrated into the vehicle showcases what's possible when you stop thinking about the car as simple phone docking station and start thinking about the car as a uniquely capable Internet delivery platform.

In February, at TED 2011 in Long Beach, OnStar expanded the capabilities of their concept car to include a feature called "MyNetwork." This system, which leverages the Pioneer Platform for the Aggregation of Internet Services, lets the driver use voice control to do things like find the location of their Facebook and Twitter friends in the real world, discover a new restaurant or other business, publish directions to that place on their status wall, check out what Internet radio stations other drivers are listening to, and send a station to their friend.

It's a compelling mashup that shows how thinking beyond app-by-app can create a compelling and safe Internet experience in the car. Of course, though, we are a bit biased since MyNetwork featured Tuner2 as the Internet radio service, including the TunerMap functionality. Even so, the Media Tuners team has been working on Internet radio in devices since 1999 (!), so it is very gratifying to see that someone is finally taking the concept beyond the simple replication of existing service and deciding to put a new an innovative twist on Internet radio in the car. Just like each radio network shouldn't live alone in their own "app", Internet radio itself shouldn't live alone as a separate "app." It should be part of an integrated experience that takes advantage of the unique requirements of a driver heading down the road.

Pioneer's in-car voice-controlled Internet radio mashup

As I have said many times, the key to usability of Internet radio is integration and intuitive control. Power on, turn the knob, and something good comes out of the speakers. As incredible as it may sound, at CES 2011, Pioneer demonstrated an Internet platform that makes it even simpler. In their case, you just power on, say what you want, and something good happens.

Pioneer's Platform for the Aggregation of Internet Services mashes up Internet radio, social networking, local search, and navigation all wrapped in a natural language voice user interface. It makes the app-by-app experiences announced at CES look a little bit archaic.

Fans of Tuner2 will notice a familiar Internet radio service featured in the demonstration video starting at 2:00 and the use of TunerMap starting at 4:00.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LAX->LAS - 64K all the way!

For the fourth year in a row, I tested the consumer viability of Internet radio in the car during my drive from the LA area to Las Vegas for CES. As before, I tuned into Radio Paradise via Tuner2 on an iPhone (over AT&T of course, this being early 2011 and all). And unlike previous years, instead of timidly connecting to the 24Kbps stream, I set it to 64Kbps and let it run.

The result was... success!

I enjoyed my music with only a minor hiccup cresting the Halloran summit. Even the canyon area dropping towards the NV border was solid. This milestone marked the start of what will clearly be the year of Internet radio in the car. Toyota finally went public with Entune (more on that in a future post), and a whole boatload of car makers were at CES showing their connected drive wares.

But what about the death of "unlimited" data, you say? The truth is that it was never alive. If you had read the fine print of all your previous plans (regardless of carrier), they capped out at 5GB, meaning that if you exceeded the 5GB limit, then they will either throttle you drastically or cut you off. Now, to get to the pricepoints that people want, they are offering 2GB (nearly everyone with the Samsung Galaxy Tab) and now even 1GB plans (iPad on Verizon) to give you data-only access without paying an arm and a leg.

The reality is that if someone uses Internet radio (32Kbps) in their car to the same level that they currently use broadcast radio in their car, the average monthly usage for Internet radio will be somewhere around 800MB, most likely well below the tolerance threshold in the models used to price the 2GB plans. (It would throw off the "average" weighting the carriers use to price the 1GB plans, though.)

So fire up those connected tablets, dock those phones to your dashboard, Internet radio in the car is upon you!