How RIM Can Win the Next Great Tablet Race - PlayBook in Cars From Factory

By Kevin Michaluk on 16 Mar 2011 03:01 pm EDT

It was still launch day when the folks at SoundMan Car Audio custom mounted an Apple iPad 2 into the dashboard of a Ford F-150 (see video above). The end result is definitely impressive and it makes for an interesting argument, as our friends at TiPb pointed out...

The iPad 2 is the perfect car audio and entertainment system, the way these guys have installed it, complete with charging, video out to rear screens and the perfect fit and finish has really got us thinking. Car manufacturers really need to stop doing customised LCD panel audio and sat-nav systems and just adopt the iPad 2. This should be an extra in any good car manufacturer's price list! It makes so much sense and offers so much more. 

It's almost time for me to replace my old clunker, so I've been doing some browsing in my spare time and have to agree that I'm not really sold on the car manufacturer dashboard LCD audio/sat-nav systems that are shipping on most automobiles today (at least the ones I'm looking at). That's a somewhat dumb thing to say of course, as a lot of these systems are powered by QNX which is now owned by Research In Motion and forms the foundation of the BlackBerry Tablet OS, but there in lies the opportunity!

The more I learn about QNX, the more I'm convinced it's the Chuck Norris of operating systems (on twitter I hear it can win a game of Connect Four in three moves and play a two hour movie in two minutes!). In the automotive environment, it's not really the current underlying OS in these dashboard LCD systems that is the problem, but rather that there are too many cooks in the kitchen wanting to cook with cheap ingredients. Each manufacturer wants their own UI, their own unique features, and wants to do it as low cost as possible. While tossing iPads into cars from factory and passing off the cost to the consumer as an added feature is one possibilty as noted by TiPb, beyond media and entertainment I think integrating the iPad into the entire car's computer systems would likely be a bit of a challenge. On the other hand, QNX already has the ability to connect with literally everything in a car (see QNX Car Application Platform). As consumers, what we need to see happen next is for the RIM/BlackBerry influence to enter the automobile and tie it all together with native in-dashboard support for a tablet device such as the BlackBerry PlayBook (I'm guessing we'd have to wait for the next generation).

Here's my dream... in step by step form:

  1. Open the door of my new 2013 Range Rover 
  2. The dashboard enclosure folds down and opens up
  3. I pull the PlayBook from my coat pocket, and slide it into the dashboard, upon which the dashboard folds back up and the PlayBook looks completely natural in the interior
  4. Just as I can set my BlackBerry Smartphone to enter the alarm clock app when plugged into charge, the BlackBerry tablet switches to a "car OS" the second it's connected within the dashboard (car manufacturers could still custom brand this).
  5. Since both the car and PlayBook are now running on QNX, the PlayBook actually connects to the car's systems allowing me to do all sorts of cool stuff beyond just media and entertainment. The PlayBook is literally part of the car.
  6. When I get to my destination, I can leave my PlayBook if I want to, or can easily take it out.
  7. (still trying to workout what happens when I forget my PlayBook outside of the car and need to drive somewhere... still working that one out in my head!)

One of the big benefits I see with the 7" PlayBook form factor is that it is a lot more use-everywhere friendly than larger tablets like the iPad. I've owned an iPad since it came out, and find it sits around home like a coffee table book or at best I take it with me to kill time on airplane rides when traveling. But it's just too big to carry around and use locally at places like coffee shops or restaurants (annoying to transport, and I feel douchey with it!). So at least for me, the homebase for larger-sized tablets like the iPad is literally the home... which also happens to be where I have a laptop and desktop computer and television, which in their own ways are all superior to an iPad, which means the iPad sits around a lot doing nothing. But if the homebase for my tablet became the car - that's where it lived a lot of the time, then I would use it much more while out about, which is where I think a big part of the appeal of the tablet class lies, and would still bring it into the home at the end of the day for my before-bed ebook reading.

Though the market for (modern) tablets is still in its infancy, just about every article I read these days paints a similar picture - that even though a plethora of well-specced tablets are hitting or are about to hit the market, Apple will continue to lead the category with its iPad (and iPad 2) offerings. I get it. Apple is the one who revived the category putting out a product in a compelling package at a fairly reasonable price that was easy to use and made sense for consumers to buy and even enterprises to try (I refuse to call a giant iPod touch "magical"). Apple deserves credit. Apple has the early market share lead, great consumer brand recognition, and already has a second generation tablet on the market, while a company like RIM is pushing hard just to get their first one out the door. But the way a lot of people are looking at it, no matter how good any follow-up tablets are, be they RIM/BlackBerry, HP/Palm WebOS, Android-based, etc., they're all somewhat "me too" after the iPad. So even if the competition can brag about the things they do better than the iPad -- like full flash support, true multi-tasking and even better hardware specs -- Apple gets to shrug it off.... because well, they're Apple (Steve Jobs reminds me a bit of Mugatu in Zoolander actually... so hot right now he could take a crap, wrap it in tinfoil, put a couple fish hooks on it and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings).

So while I am pumped to get my BlackBerry PlayBook and based on what we have seen so far think it will be an awesome product that should get some great reviews (and it'll only get better being such a young platform), I can't help but feel a little saddened that RIM is not likely going to get much in the way of props from the tech press and world at large as being innovators in the tablet space, at least initially. That said, I do think the tablet game is far from over and really believe there is a MASSIVE opportunity for RIM that would change that me-too tablet perception and really help them gain an even bigger chunk of market share, and it's automobiles. They already have the "in" thanks to QNX. Now they need to work those relationships and really bring BlackBerry to every automobile right from factory. Automotive companies haven't been shy to try this type of thing in the past -- tons of cars come with iPod adapters -- but the unique opportunity for RIM here is to go that extra step beyond accessory and try to be native on the dashboard... be truly integrated into the automotive experience.

It's a crazy world out there... is it too crazy to dream that one of the biggest future retailers of BlackBerry tablets could be auto manufacturers? Maybe. Who knows. My mind starts to wander when I have too much time to think (just get me my PlayBook RIM... I wantz it now!). Anyways, let me know what you think in the comments! Anybody else want some native car dashboard tablet support?

Reader comments

How RIM Can Win the Next Great Tablet Race - PlayBook in Cars From Factory


Okay, that's kinda weird - I was literally running through the same scenarios in my head as you posted in that enumerated list, as I was driving into work this morning...

yeah especially compared to the sat/nav screens being installed in the cars from the manufacturers. Also i can't see the use in doing something like that, you can't use the face time while driving.

Not only that but I think there could be other issues like how does the power management on a completely unintegrated device work in terms of the car being on or off (I assume it's simply a holder slot and there's no charging?). How does the device restrict certain usage during movement (that would have to be a brand new app that would have to poll acceleration data constantly, killing the battery and it would obviously have to be an optional install, which defeats the purpose).

Integration with other audio systems in the car? Generally that's the purpose of in-dash units...

In a sense it seems like a glorified smartphone (a huge one at that) mounted on a dashboard. Basically it replicates what is already available and it's not an integrated system.

you wouldnt have to poll acceleration data for useage restriction, the current restriction for screens and such is normally governed by the electrical connection on the handbrake/parking brake. so a simple on/off signal from that line is all thats needed. i think current systems usualyy use the earth generated to break the circuit for in driving use.

Right, and for integrated systems that's how it works. But this isn't an integrated system. It's just a glorified version of taping an ipad to your dash, which is why I would think you would have to do something software wise to be able to tell.

I love the post. I think they did a good job on that ipad looking seemless in the dash. I would love to be able to have a mobile, home and auto media into one package. Now that would be awesome. I would have definitely felt like the money i spent is more than worth it.

Kevin you would also need a tilt/swivel action so the camera will actually face you while driving.. LOL

Im not trying to burst his bubble because he is somewhat true.
He is the first ever to put the "Ipad 2" into the dash of a vehicle.

Here's what the first Ipad looks like in dash! /2011/01/19/ How-Do-You-Make-A-New-Fiat-500-Cost--666K--493638

But if I ever get a chance and the set up to put a playbook in my dash I would do it in a heartbeat it looks amazing!

I have to admit that is a pretty sweet system... Minus the iPad2 of course... Hahaha... That would be awesome to see this happen where it could an option straight up from the manufacturers...

Wouldnt this be illegal in most states and some provinces???

I know in Ontario you cannot use a mobile device while driving. With the exception of bluetooth of course...

also, thats too big to go in a dash!! if he made it so that it was facing the driver then it would of been better too.

My car is way too small for a 10" pad. lol... i find it funny how he doesn't have a clue how to use the MS sync in his own truck.

Yes, this is an excellent idea, although I wouldn't want this limited to just RIM/QNX tablets. I also think tablets should integrate with my washing machine, dryer, TV, DVR, security system, sprinkler system, and oven to provide more functionality, better notifications, and a better user interface.

This is where I see the true potential of tablets (as opposed to replacing smartphones, laptops, or desktops). Anything you might want to put a better UI on, or add more flexibility, you could do via a tablet. I want my tablet to be a universal remote for anything.

Jim did say from day one that "the automobile was a great accessory for the PlayBook". I'm paraphrasing, but he did strongly suggest that we'd be seeing PlayBooks in future autos.

What does that mean for us? Well, having it permanently built in would be awkward for connecting to a PC or doing upgrades, so there needs to be an easy slide-in feature.

If it is a slide-in, then, as Kevin suggested, what happens if you forget it. It would be a disaster if you expect to have GPS and other capabilities on board and you suddenly don't because you forgot it on the coffee table!

If it is built into vehicles, then there may be driving restrictions as Frank 2029 suggests. Sophisticated touch screens are quite inviting, so they would/could be a rather dangerous accessory. Perhaps it's functions could be diminished while the car is moving, or it can be mounted far away on the front passenger side :)

Finally, codemaker suggests adding one to a dryer. I want one on my refrigerator with the family calendar! Hmmm, maybe a cheapo Android tablet might do as I won't be leaving my PlayBook behind! Nevah!

lol @ Saab

QNX is already in over 300 car models which makes Playbook a win. I'm sure this idea is already on the minds of RIM, if not, at least a lot of integration with infotainment systems is.

That looked pretty dope. Size wise its fine, its not like he tried to squeeze it in a BMW Z4 dash.

Its obvious customisation like this would be best suited for bigger cars e.g 4x4 and trucks.

Now if the playbook had a FM tuneri would mount this in my dash in a heartbeat.

What if these new cars had a camera in your instrument cluster so you can facetime chat while it is docked

I'm wondering how he's going to do any of the GPS, facetime, or pandora while he's drivind. I thought the 3G versions haven't been released yet?

props to that shop. I love BB, but any person bashing this is just jealous. Don't worry BB will have its turn

That's what I was thinking. They are bashing purely because it's Apple and quite a few on here are blind RIM fanboys.

Fact is if you put that in their car, would they say no? Of course they fucking wouldn't.

That being said it would be great to knock a PB out in a car like that vid.

If any tablet becomes standard in an automobile dash, I see a drastic rise of deadly crashes. Until they get cars that can drive themselves, they should stop putting distractions everywhere so people can actually concentrate on driving.

Persnally I sell a lot of in dash DVD and Navigation systems for vehicles. New and old. The fact is that almost every DVD/NAV system out there uses a 7" LCD screen on their top of the line models. The Playbook is by no means too large for these dashes, however a 10" iPad definitely is. The 7" screen is the perfect form factor for vehicles as its large enough to be easy to operate and small enough to not hog the real estate of the dash.

Using a tablet in your dash would not be the "cause" of car crashes as current DVD/NAV systems are already designed to be used in an automotive environment and all that would need to be done is have certain usage restrictions in place for when the vehicle is moving (see aforementioned e-brake comment by another user). Also the playbook could easily support power mat style charging system if it were placed stationary in a vehicle making power consumption a non-issue.

Kevin you have a great idea and all I can hope is that SOMEONE with the know-how and influence can take off with this idea and make it a reality. It would be GREAT for both RIM and for car users alike.

So you didn't see the demo by BMW of BlackBerry hooked up to the in car system a couple of years ago?

Given QNX is the king of in car systems, I doubt this option has passed them by.

But would you really want a removable Playbook in a vehicle? Or is that just too good an invitation for thieves.