It seems every consumer electronic device is going app crazy, from smartphones to Internet-connected TVs, but it looks like the next target of app store envy is likely parked in your driveway – or will be in a few years. A Gartner analyst is forecasting that more than half of all new premium cars in the U.S. will support apps by 2013 and mass market cars will reach that level by 2016.
Connected cars was a big theme at CES that I mentioned in my blog, Bandwidth Tsunami from CES, including some Ford executives talking about how their goal isn’t to create the apps or the connectivity for them – simply to improve the integration and user interface for existing smartphones or other devices within the car itself, which makes total sense.
A great example is Rhapsody.com, the number one digital music service and an Internap colocation customer. Rhapsody subscribers have access to ten millions songs and tons of Internet radio stations housed in our Seattle server colocation facility, so they can listen to just about any song or genre available. And with access on mobile phones via a Rhapsody app, subscribers can connect their smartphones in their car to enjoy their customized playlists instead of spinning the dial and hoping for something good on FM or satellite radio.
Based on subscriber reviews and feedback, they envision their smartphone will be the only device they’ll need in their car as it can provide hands-free access to phone calls, music, GPS directions and other apps down the road (such as verbally updating Facebook and Twitter and geo-location services). Some car manufacturers are going so far as to turn your car into a mobile hotspot using existing 3G USB modems – plug it in and passengers in the car get Internet access. Is anyone up for streaming NetFlix movies in the backseat?
To me, it’s amazing to think that I could be driving around Atlanta with my iPhone plugged into my car listening to songs on my Rhapsody playlist that are streaming from the Internap server colocation facility…while sounding like I’m playing the CD in my car. When you combine hosted apps, services and content in the cloud being accessed through mobile devices in cars with better interfaces for drivers, it underscores the potential for this market and importance of network performance for the high-quality delivery of all that communications and content on the go.