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Tablets hold strong potential for auto infotainment

Posted: 07 Jun 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:tablet  automotive  infotainment systems 

IHS iSuppli's research indicates that the tablet screen size has an advantage over smartphones thereby holding strong potential as rear-seat entertainment solutions in automotive infotainment systems.

The research indicates that while smartphones paved the way for the wide use of tablets in cars and have held a key position in infotainment systems, it doesn't mean it could not be replaced as entertainment solution in automobiles. However, with their extensive integration of multiple functions like global positioning system (GPS) and media players on top of their inherent connectivity—along with their popularity and portability—smartphones still represent the preferential platform for car infotainment. Thus, IHS believes that the importance of smartphones in vehicles will not diminish.

Nevertheless, one of main disadvantages smartphones have is their screen size, which is not adequate for prolonged use for media consumption and content viewing. In the vehicle, both the driver and passengers are usually passive with regards to incoming data. This means that they absorb and consume information and media, but do not create content.

Tablets offer similar levels of integration as smartphones, while sporting a larger screen size more suitable for content and information consumption. The media tablet's main purpose is to communicate, browse, search and read information and enjoy media and social networks. Tablets are not intended for the creation of content. This makes tablets an optimal solution to rear seat entertainment.

Another feature that distinguishes tablets from other platforms is that tablets are essentially a screen, or a touchscreen, to be more precise. This defining attribute, together with the absence of a keyboard, confirms the media tablet's focus on content consumption rather than creation.

The aggressive competition among tablet makers has helped foster improvements.

The iPad 2, for example, remedied some of the shortcomings of the first generation product. In the second generation, Apple focused on offering a product with a reduced weight and a more comfortable size. The company also enhanced the product's speed with dual core processors and graphics capabilities that are more suitable for the applications that this kind of device is targeting. Other new features include adding two cameras, which were missing in the first generation.

Tablet limitations
However, connectivity has not particularly improved since there is still no supporting USB host interface in the iPad 2. iPad competitors have offered different approaches to connectivity, trying to take advantage of what might be considered a weak point for Apple. The newly announced Google Honeycomb based on Android 3.1 serves as an example of a tablet supporting USB hosting.

Another shortcoming for tablets is pricing. The cost of tablets still has not reached the sweet spot for wide proliferation in motor vehicles. Nevertheless, competition will push prices down in the near future. This will make tablets more attractive for use in cars.

The integration of tablets, like the iPad, into car infotainment systems will benefit car makers in terms of image and branding.

Because of this, many companies already are offering applications for tablets and smartphones dedicated to the automotive segment. Location based services (LBS), maps, point of interest (POI), augmented reality and social networking service apps are already available. These have found a great opportunity to spread quickly, taking advantage of Internet access and communication capabilities from Wi-Fi to 2G, 3G or LTE technologies.

For more statistics and forecasts, click here.

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