Technology wise, it’s an exciting time for QNX in the automotive industry. Desktop type functionality is making its way into the car. Wireless technology and advanced graphics are quickly making the connected car vision reality. It won’t be long before the only difference between your living room and your car is the steering wheel!
Unfortunately, however, the companies that provide a lot of this functionality do not have their roots in the embedded space. This creates a host of licensing issues because these vendors see big business opportunities without really comprehending the licensing requirements of the embedded industry. I spend a lot of time with lawyers trying to get them to the point where they start to understand the model that you and I take for granted.
Every now and then, I get a pleasant surprise. I recently started talking to Pandora Internet Radio about bringing their technology into the car. Pandora Internet Radio offers a very neat spin on radio. You just go to their website (www.pandora.com) and type in the name of one of your favorite bands or songs. Their algorithms then create a custom radio station based on this seed song, streams it to your desktop and you’re off and listening. You also get a view of all the metadata and lots of information about the bands you are listening to. I started with The Smiths and right now I am listening to The London Suede. I’ve never heard of The London Suede until right now but I like what I hear. By their look you can probably guess what they sound like.
What does any of this have to do with software licensing? QNX is tinkering with Pandora Internet Radio and our QNX Aviage Middleware Suite. If we get to the point where we do integrate it, we will want to be able to pass it along to our customers, the automotive Tier 1 suppliers, so they can evaluate the combined technology for their designs. At some point, the Tier 1s will decide to include it in infotainment systems they sell to the car manufacturers. You will then get to buy cars that include this cool technology (the car looking more and more like your living room). All good for you but typically means that I’ll be back with the lawyers arguing about cascading re-distribution rights, term and termination and who knows what else.
Pandora is different. They really are about enablement. To access their APIs you apply and if your business lines up with theirs they give you access. To license the APIs they have a pretty benign click through agreement. It gets you access to the API and the ability to give your integrated solution to your customer. If your customer needs to pass it along another level then they too agree to the click through license. There’s some other stuff in there but it’s all perfectly reasonable – it even makes sense to us non-lawyer types.
It’s easy, it’s painless, and it barely involves lawyers. If more companies entering the embedded space adopted this type of enablement philosophy then maybe we could spend more time chasing business and less time chasing each other. Of course, I might be out of a job…
Sadly, I write this while travelling in the United States – can’t get Pandora in Canada – I think it has something to do with licensing rights.