Amongst the many new tablets on display at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, one stood out — not for its size or its overall design — but because it was developed by a car company.
As expected by the luxury brand, the tablet is sleek, housed inside a brushed aluminum casing, that will feel at home inside any of the company’s vehicles.
But what’s on screen is what should capture the attention of Hollywood.
Because the tablet is powered by Google, all of the company’s apps, including YouTube, will be available to users through the Google Play store. Every video, music and gaming app.
This is significant because when paired up with Audi’s WiFi service built into its cars, Audi will truly become the ultimate mobile entertainment device.
This was inevitable, especially as Google has aggressively gone after carmakers as the latest platform to take over with its Android operating system, currently on a majority of the smartphones and tablets in the world. It announced the Open Auto Alliance at CES to integrate Android into more cars made by members General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Audi.
But Audi is the only one to say it will build its own tablet so far.
And owners of Audi’s tablet will surely want to fill it up with content, so it will soon become a new source of revenue for content makers and distributors. What’s also noteworthy is that Audi’s consumers will enable YouTube to now offer its advertisers an attractive wealthier demo to reach through their online marketing campaigns. Targeting consumers through their cars? It’s now closer than you think.
Audi is building the Smart Display through its sister company e.solutions, a joint-venture with Elektrobit. Nvidia will provide the Tegra 4 chips that run the device at impressive speeds.
With more tablets finding their way into cars, developers of the Smart Display said they wanted to come up with a device that was safer to use while driving. The Smart Display was designed to be crash-proof; its glass won’t shatter upon impact hurting passengers. The case is also meant to withstand high or low temperatures, which often affect mobile devices.
But accessing information and entertainment is the real appeal for Audi’s new tablet.
Device connects to Audi’s MMI navigation and infotainment system, with all of the car’s data available to see on the Smart Display, from maps to fuel gauges. A built-in camera enables Skype video calls.
In announcing the new device, Nvidia touted the “hundreds of thousands of “books, music, games and films that can be enjoyed by passengers in the car.” The display will also play DVDs through Audi’s internal system, Netflix and other streaming-based apps through Audi’s high-speed LTE Internet connection available in the car. It will also enable users to start a movie in the car and finish it at home where they left off.
Audi is still trying to figure out just where it will have drivers store the Smart Display in the car when it becomes available. There’s not currently a dedicated slot for tablets inside its vehicles. The device will most likely become an accessory available when you buy a new car.
But even that is an interesting issue car designers must now deal with. In Audi’s case, it’s embraced the fact that its consumers aren’t willing to give up on their mobile devices while driving, so it’s joined them and created its own.
The timing of the Smart Display’s offering also comes as companies like Audi push hard to develop and promote self-driving cars. Should that take off, “drivers” will be able to turn to tablets like Audi’s new device to stay occupied.
And that’s only good news for the entertainment industry, which is seeing its digital dollars add up to a significant new revenue stream through mobile devices.