Although there is talk of CD and DVD players being replaced in vehicles by hard drives of one type or another, according to Joep Thomassen, director of Marketing Strategy, Car Entertainment Systems, Philips Semiconductors (Eindhoven, The Netherlands; http://www.semiconductors.philips.com/markets/communications/nexperia), “We believe optical storage will still be in the car for a very long time. For some period to come, it will be the way to bring content to the car—even if there is a flash drive or hard disk.” Looking out 10 years, he sees the optical media holding their own although there will be changes as WiFi- or WiMAX-based downloads become more pervasive. That is, consumers may “sync” their vehicles with a home-based server or at a “hot spot.”
Philips is widely known in the consumer electronics space for a variety of products from televisions to tuners. Thomassen points out that the company has extensive experience supplying the auto industry, as well, citing the fact that they’ve shipped more than one billion CAN bus transceivers so far. In the area of the company that he’s involved with, the emphasis is on semiconductors and software, not on headsets. However, manufacturers of headsets for vehicles including Delphi, Visteon, Siemens, Harmon Becker, Clarion, and Panasonic are among the Philips’ silicon customers. Recently, for example, Philips announced a new processor, the Nexperia PNX9106, that can be integrated with existing AM/FM designs so that there’s greater connectivity, including USB and Flash devices, as well as hard disks and portable multimedia units. It also enables secure streaming from Microsoft’s Windows Media Player devices, which Thomassen says is the first chipset that handles this digital rights-protected format for car use. Production of the PNX9106 is slated to commence in the second half of ’06.
The effect of the Apple iPod is something that can’t be overlooked when it comes to car audio and consumer expectations. While acknowledging that, Thomassen observes, “Our view is that in the long term, some of these functions will be integrated into the car system.” He suggests, for example, that while the iPod interface may be fine for browsing by hand, it is necessary to have “an interface optimized for operation at high speeds.” The distraction factor must be minimized.
While the portable music player may be integrated into vehicles, he thinks cell phones will remain separate. “People don’t want to have two phones or SIM cards.”—GSV