Saturday, November 16, 2013

Standardization is a Good Thing

When I buy a computer, unless it is an Apple, it comes with a Windows operating system.  For better or for worse (I haven't tired Windows 8, yet), this is the standard.  I can buy a Dell and get Windows.  I can buy an HP and get Windows.  I can even by an Apple and have Windows on it.  This standardization is a good thing because it 1) fosters competition by computer makers to make better computers because consumers can be comfortable switching brands without worrying they have to learn a whole new operating system (which is one reason I have not switched to Apple) and 2) if someone hands me a PC, no matter the brand, I can probably operate it since I'll be familiar with its OS (unless it's Windows 8).

So why, when you buy a Ford, you get "Ford MyTouch" and when you buy a Chevrolet you get "Chevrolet MyLink" and when you buy a Cadillac (built by the same manufacturer as Chevrolet) you get "CUE" (a whole other system) and I could go on and on because it seems every car manufacturer has a proprietary OS for their infotainment and navigation systems.  (Interestingly, I looked at a Chrysler 300 recently and it seemed to have a Garmin navigation system, which to me is a step in the right direction.) 

An aside: My opinion is, don't buy navigation systems for cars.  They want $1,000 for them and then charge you to update them.  Buy a Garmin for $200 and you can carry it from car to car (including rental cars) and they update much cheaper (if not free).

The reasons for this have to do with both the history of the PC and the history of the car.  But I think automakers should standardize.  Yes, they want their luxury cars to have better infotainment than their base models (thus "MyLink" and "CUE") but they could have similar OSs but with more options.  Like Windows Home and Windows Professional and Windows Professional Premium.  That way when you buy a new car, you don't have to sit in the driveway with the owners manual (which they are stopping printing and putting on DVD/CD so I'm not sure how you're supposed to read them in the car) and figure out how to turn on the radio or enter a destination in the nav system.

And I've yet to have a car that understands voice commands as well as Siri does on my iPhone (and she has trouble, too).  I've pretty much given up using the nav systems in my cars because Siri works so much better (and stays up to date and doesn't want to charge me $150 for updated navigation CDs).  The only bad part is the small screen on my phone (helps a lot when a passenger can use their iPhone and give you directions).  Now if I could integrate my iPhone with my car's infotainment system . . .

So I think standardization of car infotainment systems would be a good thing.  But try to get BMW and Mercedes to agree on anything!

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