Positioning itself as a top automotive supplier, Sun Microsystems is pushing for the adoption of not just one, but two in-vehicle network platforms to deliver mobile dashboard services and to monitor engine performance.
Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy delivered the opening keynote at Convergence 2000, an annual automotive electronics conference in Detroit. McNealy used the address to drum up support among an audience of 500 automotive suppliers and automakers for turning the car into a "Java browser with tires" and making heavy investments in telematics (in-vehicle communications) systems.
"Being networked can be a double-edged sword," McNealy said. "A lot of people are nervous about letting computer folks near their cars." But, he added, revamping vehicles to accommodate new digital network platforms could pave the way for new subscription-based service revenues for the automakers McNealy improvised with freehand drawings to sketch out his vision of vehicles with two types of network communications platforms.
One type would offer dashboard-based Internet services for motorists, such as General Motor's OnStar communications system and Ford Motor's Wingcast service. Through that platform, motorists could purchase gas, entertainment and other concierge services from the road.
The other type would be an in-vehicle network platform to manage the vehicle's internal power train, chassis and parts. That second system could notify drivers to service their vehicles and provide information to insurance companies about the last clocked-speed of a vehicle prior to crash.
McNealy championed the use of Sun's hardware to operate these networks and the use of Java 2 Enterprise Edition to create a means for car components to share data on the network.
He also said a "very interesting battle for the driver's registration" online was emerging.
Meanwhile, Sun rival Microsoft has unveiled plans to create a version of its Windows CE operating system for automotive use.
McNealy took jabs at both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard in his trademark biting humour, disparaging the need for printers in automobiles and joking that using "Control-Alt-Delete" to reboot a vehicle from the dashboard was a bad idea.
Officials at several automakers, such as BMW, Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen said they had initiatives underway to utilise Windows CE and Java application programming interfaces in their respective vehicle lines within the next few years.