Car infotainment systems are becoming more powerful and feature-rich — but do we really need them to be? Author and developer Scott Hanselman wishes manufacturers would focus on developing versatile, open dashboards instead of locking themselves into features that will soon be obsolete. The award-winning Toyota Entune system that comes with his car, for example, includes apps for Bing, Pandora, and traffic estimates, but even these provide nothing more than a "pale shadow of a tablet PC." If, as he suggests, the screen simply connected to a smartphone, more money could have been spent on a high-quality screen and connection system, or on developing smartphone apps to complement the system.
Instead, building apps specifically for dashboard systems creates inconvenience and a constant update treadmill. Not only does it take eight steps to use Pandora on Entune, Hanselman says, but the Pandora app itself may not be all that well-maintained. If Pandora ever shuts down, "will Toyota put out a user-serviceable update to my car's system to remove the Pandora icon or will it remain on my dash for eternity, a lonely symbol of a dead company reminding me each ignition of a bubble long past?" Dashboard systems have tremendous promise, but manufacturers might be shooting themselves in the foot by trying to develop a completely independent platform.