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When you realize that voice is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Avoid the App Trap

It's time to get real when it comes to putting apps on connected cars and TVs. That reality is about three hard, cold facts: 1. Your platform is tiny compared to mobile OS platforms 2. Your device is used differently than a mobile phone 3. Google and Apple want to turn your car or TV into a phone peripheral

Millions of cars or 10s of millions of TVs (even assuming 100% user connect rates) are a small potential user-base compared to 100s of millions of smartphones. Add to that the fact that mobile apps are designed to lock the user into staring at a tiny screen and you have a stark contrast between mobile apps and the rest of the CE device space.

Now these facts wouldn't be a problem, except that most connected car and TV makers seem to pretend that they don't exist. They create open platforms and expect that the top app brands will port to their environment complete with a new UX. They start competing API developer programs and expect that top app makers will integrate their connectivity API because, "of course the app maker want to be in our prestigious brand of car," forgetting that even willing app makers need to manage 6+ APIs, each with their own QA requirements and release cycles. This is before even mentioning the fact that the additional revenue the app maker might see from these efforts is far less than the investment required in development, ongoing maintenance, and QA.

The bottom line is that if your goal is simply to get 3rd parties to put apps on your platform, then you are already fighting a losing battle. Apps on your platform will always be released later and will most likely not be optimized for your platform's unique UX requirements. Users looking for their favorite app on your platform are sure to be disappointed eventually because your selection of compatible apps will always suffer in comparison to Google Play or the Apple App Store. In addition, having their favorite app on your platform doesn't give you a benefit of differentiation, it just brings you to parity. To put it simply, Pandora on HondaLink compared to Pandora on Ford SYNC AppLink does not help sell a Honda instead of a Ford.

Apple and Google both see this reality and are pushing their advantage. On the automotive side, Apple Siri 'Eyes-Free' provides some driver functionality and Google has multiple projects with increasing levels of automotive integration. On the TV side, Google Chromcast and Apple AirPlay let apps take over the screen. By embracing these methods, connected car and TV makers would end up having no differentiation or control where it matters most: the user relationship.

To avoid the app trap, connected car and TV makers must think about the problem in a different way.

The key is to realize that each device has its own unique use case and to build a connected experience optimized for that use case. In cars, the driver has the primary goal of getting from point A to point B safely while keeping in touch and being entertained on the way. On TVs, the viewer is seeking primarily a lean-back style of entertainment, often in a social setting. Both cases can be described in a task-driven language. In the car, I want to find a great coffee shop near my destination. I may prefer Yelp results, but my goal isn't to "use the Yelp app." On the TV, I want to share photos with my family. I may have those photos on Facebook, but my goal isn't to "use the Facebook app."

By defining the UX in terms of task, the device maker can focus on delivering a differentiated and compelling way for the user to accomplish that task. The device maker is now out of the "app trap" because they are no longer trying to provide every app under the sun. Instead they are using Internet services "in service" of a defined set of tasks well suited to the device's use case. The device no longer competes with the mobile phone for app time, rather it allows the user to interact with their favorite services away from the Web and phone in a way that adds to overall time spent with the service.

Technologically, the best way to achieve this task-driven model is using an aggregation platform like Media Tuners MT-One. MT-One allows connected car and TV makers to create task-driven user experiences without having to build a different app for each Web services and without having to predict which Web services people will want to complete their tasks 4 years down the road.

If connected car and TV makers want to succeed, they need to avoid the app trap. Don't let Apple and Google set the rules, change the rules to be in your favor. Use lessons learned from your long history of building unique value for your customers to build task-driven experiences that leverage the Internet. Then you will have happy customers and a new way of establishing a long term relationship with them.

Frerichs Speaking at CES 2014

CES 2014CES 2014 is fast approaching. If you are going to be there, be sure to see David Frerichs of Media Tuners speak as part of the Connecting to the Cloud conference track.

Based on over 15 years of experience leveraging cloud services for consumer electronics, he will give insight into the specific benefits and difficulties facing auto, TV, and other device makers today as they work to bring the features of the cloud into their products.

Impact of the Cloud on the CE Industry Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 5:15-6 p.m. LVCC, North Hall N262

Hope to see you there!

Customize to conquer clutter

mt_one_logo_onwhiteDesigning a connected dashboard for cars is an art of balance. How can we let in the deluge of digital services without jeopardizing the simplicity (and thereby safety and usability) of the dashboard UX? There are many aspects to this problem: touch/voice integration, task vs. app usage model, unified login, consistent screen layout, etc. Today I want to focus on customization as a key weapon in your battle to conquer clutter on the touch screen.

Customization of the home screen is the tool that will allow your user to migrate from newbies to power user without getting frustrated with your head unit. When we have a new user, clearly they don't know where to start. They will need to be presented with a set of generic choices and guided through them to get to their final desired activity. However, after awhile, drivers will pretty much get into a groove and have a core set of 4-7 activities that they do the vast majority of the time.

A well designed UX will allow those core activities to be at the driver's finger tips with one touch, pushing the more generic activities down the to the list. It's important to note, though, that cars can have more than one driver, so those customizations really need to be set on a per driver basis. One person's ideally optimized home screen can be a confusing mess to another driver.

Given the importance of per-user custom layouts, we designed into MT-One the ability to store custom layout information inside each driver's account on the cloud service. That way when the driver sits down, their home screen is right there waiting for them, enhancing functionality as well as safety. They have what they want, where they want it, at one touch.

autokraft_home_screenHere is an automotive dashboard designed on top of MT-One. This first picture shows my default home screen. As you can see, the options are very generic, allowing the user to drill down through the various tasks to find what they want.

Since I drink inordinately large amounts of coffee, the first thing I end up doing is drilling down through the category menus in the business search to find coffee. Something that is OK to do the first time, but something of which I will quickly grow tired.

home_screen_customizedIn this picture, the problem is solved. I have customized the home screen to have one touch access to search for coffee nearby using the Yelp service. Now as I am driving, instead of having to drill down through the menus to find a coffee shop, I just touch the one button and the search happens. Since the configuration is stored in the MT-One cloud, any car or device I log into will have this same starting layout.

Simple.

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