Apple's next revolution should be in your car

Car stereos and navigation systems are a mess, but Apple could make it all just work

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That leaves the mobile platform providers. Google isn't really an option, as it almost always needs someone else to copy, and no one can yet be aped. Plus, its products tend to be ad hoc, inconsistent, and of questionable lifespan -- none of which you want in a vehicle you'll own for three to 15 years. Ironically, Motorola Mobility -- once famed for its car stereos -- could be the right vehicle for merging car stereos and Android, but I just can't see the company as constituted today doing it, especially as Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility gets closer. I would love either company to prove me wrong.

Apple, please invent the iCar
Who's left? Apple, of course. Apple is famous for taking broken markets -- MP3 players, then smartphones, then music sales, then tablets, and now perhaps home theaters -- and figuring out a well-integrated, soup-to-nuts experience that it controls. I could sure use that in the cars I drive and rent.

Apple could easily adopt the iPhone to a car stereo -- Pioneer has shown it's more than possible even without Apple's talents to tap into. Of course, Apple would take it much further. For example, its App Store could tag appropriate apps as driving-safe, so only those apps would run in the car, whether they were running in the car stereo (in sort of an iCloud-like download for the currently signed-in driver) or wirelessly mirrored from a driver's iPhone or iPad.

Beyond navigation apps (integrated with your contacts, of course) and phone integration, put Siri into the mix, as well as the Reminders location-aware task manager (as you leave the office, you hear "stop at the grocery to get more cream") and Calendar app ("you're running late to your meeting, shall I call to let the party know?"). That would be revolutionary!

Apple could also take advantage of the HD Radio standard's song tagging to integrate with the iTunes Store: Like a song? Buy it then and there for all your iTunes-based devices.

The car stereo companies would probably suffer the same fate as the laggards in the cellphone business (RIM, Palm, Nokia, and Microsoft) -- but they've had their chance and not used it. As author Jerry Purnelle likes to call it, that's evolution in action. Meanwhile, the car makers would get out of the business of designing or specing devices they clearly aren't comfortable with; it wouldn't be long before it was the standard stereo in most new cars and a popular retrofit option in existing cars. We'd all be able to bring our mobile devices easily into the ultimate mobile context.

Believe me, if Apple put its mind to this problem, we'd have safer driving environments due to the better, holistic user interface design and active management of driver distractions, more meaningfully connected environments, and more personal environments -- no matter whose car we were driving.

We have the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and iCloud. An iTV seems to be in the works (though I suspect it won't be a TV but a souped-up Apple TV-derived media center). It's also time for the iCar.

This article, "Apple's next revolution should be in your car," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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