The latest salvo from the Genivi Alliance – a SWOT analysis of competing automotive operating systems – appears to cloud rather than clarify the existing automotive OS market environment. The future prospects for current and emerging players are described with little supporting evidence or insight. The report also concludes – from OEM and supplier interviews – that the Alliance’s assumptions regarding cost savings are valid without providing a detailed financial analysis of where cost savings may be achieved – ie. head count, lines of code, etc. Not surprisingly, the self-serving report concludes that Genivi will rule the market in the long term with deployments beginning in the 2013-2015 timeframe (http://tinyurl.com/29aly2t).
The report initially sets out to provide a thumbnail view of current OS market leaders Microsoft, QNX, MicroItron, Linux and Android. Going without mention are Mentor Graphics, Ubuntu, OpenSynergy, Meego or even VxWorks (currently used by Peugeot-Citroen, Nissan and Volkswagen). Also missing entirely are Genivi members MontaVista and Wind River.
Ostensibly, the goal of the report is to benchmark and/or handicap these various infotainment software architectures and their influence on in-vehicle infotainment systems; and to validate the cost savings claimed for Genivi’s code-sharing/recycling model. Missing is a detailed description of the actual software architectures themselves – ie. what makes one “better” than another. What is available in the report summary seems misleading such as a reference to Microsoft Auto booting slowly, which is also a shortcoming of Android, but which is also easily overcome.
Also missing is a discussion of current market forces, strategic supplier relationships, recent mergers and acquisitions or potential mergers or acquisitions. The absence of these latter aspects means that Intel’s acquisition of Wind River goes without mention as does the merger of Intel’s Moblin platform with Nokia’s Maemo OS to create Meego – rumored to have been selected by Genivi as its infotainment platform of choice. (Press and Nokia reports have quoted senior Genivi representatives stating that Meego has been chosen for this purpose - http://tinyurl.com/2d46xls
. No affirmation of this selection has come from any Genivi member other than BMW.)
MontaVista’s acquisition by Cavium Networks and QNX’s purchase by RIM gets no attention in the report. Neither does TomTom’s decision to adopt the Webkit OS, a platform found in other segments of the mobile market such as Palm’s Web OS. (The report fails to note Bosch’s adoption of Linux or Visteon’s embrace of Genivi, Microsoft, QNX AND Ubuntu – hedging its bets.)
These oversights are more significant than they seem as they suggest a lack of awareness of the symbiosis between mobile device operating systems and automotive hardware and software architectures. Additionally, the report repeatedly refers to “risk-averse” Japanese OEMs and tier one’s being hesitant to adopt open, Linux-based platforms – including anything from Genivi to Android. This assertion is patently absurd given Clarion’s longstanding support of Linux.
The report also paints a grim picture of QNX’s market outlook, suggesting the company’s app support is “difficult to configure” and that the company can be expected to withdraw from the IVI market entirely within a short period of time. This will no doubt be news to executives at QNX’s Ottawa headquarters where headcount committed to automotive projects is on the rise as are design wins. And the acquisition of QNX by RIM opens doors to automotive-related IP (ie. traffic apps) while adding access to a massive and growing installed base (ie. probes).
Unlike all of the alternatives currently in the market, QNX currently offers a range of flexible, scalable solutions future proofed to support Adobe Flash, HTML5, Flash Air and Flash 10.1 and all mobile OS's. QNX is customer friendly with support unmatched by Linux-based competitors or Microsoft. By way of contrast, OEMs implementing Microsoft are finding they must enlist the aid of third-party developers (bSquare, Elektrobit, etc.) to customize Microsoft Auto to their requirements. Microsoft has left application development entirely to its customers and their partners.
It is worth noting as well that QNX’s flexibility is an advantage vis-à-vis Microsoft. Where QNX supports nearly every potential application or implementation known to automotive engineers without favor, Microsoft is likely to push its Bing search engine, Silverlight graphics and other in-house offerings.
The report notes that the next generation Microsoft IVI platform, Motegi (Windows Automotive Embedded 7), will launch with Japanese OEMs, though it provides no time frame. Microsoft indeed has at least two partners in Japan – Alpine and Mitsubishi – which suggests that either Honda or Mercedes may be implementing Motegi. The report neglects to mention QNX’s recent gains in Japan, including Panasonic and Denso, showing a deeper penetration of QNX into Toyota. In fact, QNX has benefitted handsomely and rapidly from its separation from Harman – immediately attracting attention from potential Japanese and Chinese customers.
Where QNX is weakest is in developer support. This is precisely where Android shines. The report summary correctly identifies existing developers working on automotive Linux implementations – ie. Parrot, Continental and Roewe – and identifies the inclination of many designers in the industry to connect with Android but to keep it out of the central stack. The report also notes Google’s disinclination to support or endorse Android for automotive implementations, but leaves the door open to an embedded future for Android. (GM is thought to be considering an open platform such as Meego or Android for a future OnStar or infotainment launch.)
But this points up a fundamental gap in the report, which is the wider context of the OS debate. Android and Genivi do not line up directly with QNX, Microsoft or Linux (pick your distribution). Genivi has always been positioned as a code sharing platform for infotainment systems - as such it has never been presented as a replacement for Microsoft or QNX. Android, similarly, is being pursued as an alternative for ultra-low-cost (entry level) platforms - typically those emanating from India and China - as well as a means for implementing revenue sharing models based on mobile applications in the car.
The new Genivi report marks the first time the Alliance's platform is proposed as a replacement for QNX or Microsoft or any other OS, indicating a change in strategy for the group. This is where the group may be overreaching. Presenting Genivi as a one-for-one substitute for existing real-time operating system solutions is a different proposition from offering a code-sharing/recycling platform intended to reduce development costs. Obtaining industry buy-in to this vision will take 5-10 years, by which time the market may well have moved on to the next big thing. And as an industry coalition-driven solution, Genivi arrives untested in the marketplace.
The report further attempts to validate Genivi’s vision for cost-reduced platform development, saying interviewees estimated IVI deployment cost savings of up to 50%. At the same time, though, the report acknowledges that initial implementations may cost even more than incumbent solutions. Justifying or validating proposed Genivi cost savings will continue to be a tall order for the Alliance.
The Genivi Alliance’s IVI software architecture report provides valuable insights but is rife with glaring omissions, unsupported conclusions and errant assumptions. The report oversimplifies the automotive OS ecosystem and competitive environment and underestimates the influence of some incumbent players, such as QNX, and the emerging role of content and service aggregators including TeleNav, Inrix, Airbiquity, WirelessCar, TCS, ITIS Holdings, Navteq and Hughes Telematics.
A few of these content and service providers were interviewed for the report. But not a single telecommunications carrier or handset maker – outside of Nokia - was interviewed. Even more obvious than these omissions, however, was the exclusion of both Audi and the e.solutions joint venture with Elektrobit - the single most prominent, influential and competing IVI platform in the industry. The oversight is obvious and unfortunate.
The forces that are determining the future of the automotive IVI experience are almost entirely developing outside of the car, so a wider base of interviewees should have been considered. The single greatest weakness of the Genivi Alliance is its inward focus on the automotive industry as opposed to an outreach to the wider world of mobile devices and consumer electronics. It is possible for Genivi to “win” in the long run and “challenge” (in the report’s own words) Microsoft, but the Microsoft embedded solution will always have the advantage of developer support from across a broader range of industries and the design priorities that those other user communities will contribute. Genivi’s narrower focus is at once its greatest strength but, in the end, its Achilles heel.
Smartphone Market Evolution and the Automotive Opportunity Implications – Mark Fitzgerald – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - http://tinyurl.com/34hldb5
Automotive Connectivity: Beyond Bluetooth Solutions – Mark Fitzgerald – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - http://tinyurl.com/2gx88eo