Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nokia says "Meego with another OS" and Terminal Mode goes "Terminal"

Ok, how about a little controversy.  I won't bother spending too much time discussing Nokia's choice to drop Meego and that choice's impact on GenIVI.  In fact, I will say that it is just one more blow to the organization, that in my opinion lost any hope of broad market adoption about a year ago, but in any case, they will just pick up and move on to the next GUI / Application framework.  There was already debate within GenIVI if Meego was ever their "official" direction to begin with.  Likely, they might pick something a little more credible in automotive.  Frankly, even though QT is also associated with Nokia, I think it is more likely that QT will continue to have a life, even given Nokia's selection of Microsoft as their phone platform.  I wouldn't be surprised to have QT attempt to resuscitate life into GenIVI working groups, but still don't hold out much hope.

I think what I am more interested to share are my views on the impact of the Nokia decision to Terminal Mode.  Unlike GenIVI, Terminal Mode was gaining a bit of traction, or more specifically, not Terminal Mode per se, but VNC.  There were some very fundamental problems with Terminal Mode, for example since Terminal Mode lacked a great policy management story (what is allowed to be displayed when a vehicle was in motion) every tier 1 was implementing their own policy management solution.  This created issues for OEMs looking to implement solutions across multiple Tier 1s or multi-sourced production programs. 

Not being intimately involved in the working group, I will say my limited understanding was that the Terminal Mode supporters were looking to address this issue by creating a consortium of Terminal Mode participants that could address policy management and rank applications on a scale of "appropriateness" to use while the vehicle was in motion.  Since this appeared to be based on self certification by application vendors, this approach seemed questionable, to me, for automotive use.

Another major challenge to Terminal Mode was performance.  I think this is where the choice by Nokia has the most significant impact to Terminal Mode.  For anyone who has seen a Windows Phone 7 user interface, you would know that UI is in constant motion and transition.  It is the same UI that in a recent survey by Nokia is "one of the most exciting aspects of Microsoft deal" according to a Nokia poll released this week. Click here to see the Engadget Article

Already Terminal Mode was being bashed by their own supporters of the VNC approach, even within the CE4A.  The reason, performance, but such an animated, constantly moving UI like the one in Windows Phone 7 would, in my opinion, grind already sketchy performance to a halt. 

I have no doubt that there might be some creative engineers at Nokia who could have addressed the performance issues of Terminal Mode in a Windows Phone 7 environment, but I have a feeling Microsoft might have ideas on a more elegant application / screen sharing solution.  So without Nokia backing Terminal Mode, I think you see a short term VNC approach as an interim solution for sharing specific applications from a phone to a head unit, but I don't see formal Terminal Mode existing in the long term.

So what do I think will be the right solution?  Video (like iPod Out) or HTML (like Blackberry Bridge).

I will do a more in depth blog about iPod Out vs Terminal Mode vs HTML / Blackberry Bridge vehicle integration soon.

Thanks to Alistair and Jorg from Nokia let me provide a few links to Terminal Mode if you want to learn more.  I appreciate the education guys:

To learn about the Terminal Mode event March 23rd in Japan:
To learn more about Terminal Mode in general: