Can you imagine a more impressive podcessory than the very thing that will ultimately deliver global environmental apocalypse: the glorious motorcar? Although there's reportedly been an overall slump in car-stereo sales, iPod-enabled automobiles are very popular. Sales of iPod car accessories are expected to reach £163m globally this year -- more than enough to cover Steve Jobs' $1 salary.
Crave met with Apple last Friday to discuss its plans for the car. Bob Borchers, senior director of iPod worldwide product marketing, told us he was delighted by the efforts of Mac users to retrofit the Mac Mini into cars. Some in-car entertainment fans noticed that the Mac Mini is a similar form factor to a car stereo head unit, prompting modifications like this. It's interesting that Apple is keeping an eye on what these hackers are up to with their Macs.
Borchers explained how Apple wants to steer consumers away from the inelegant mess of cassette adaptors and wires, which is currently the most popular way to rig an iPod into your car stereo. Apple itself has no interest in producing a car stereo, says Borchers, but is working with third parties to improve iPod integration in new cars.
We suggested to Borchers that Apple should allow drivers to use their car steering wheel as a giant Clickwheel interface, so that you can change tracks by changing lanes. Borchers foresaw certain safety problems with such a device and rejected the concept.
Borchers sees add-ons as passé. What Apple really wants you to buy is a car that's designed from the ground up to interface with the iPod. The 30-pin connector on newer iPods can transmit all the information displayed on the iPod screen to a remote display. This lets car manufacturers display track information on the dashboard. Companies such as BMW have taken this to heart, including iPod interfaces on all its models. Enterprising hackers without a trust fund and a flat in Chelsea could try examining the pinouts and rigging up their own interface.
Crave related to Borchers the story of a driver who nearly killed us recently by reaching into the footwell of his car to retrieve an iPod nano at around 90mph. The driver considered skipping tracks on his iPod more important than the lives of multiple humans. Borchers told Crave that this was "exactly the sort of problem that properly integrating the iPod with cars can avoid". So there you have it -- iPod integration may well save your life. -CS