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3/4/2009
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Genivi Alliance Driving Linux Infotainment Stack

New reference design is rolled out for creating in-vehicle products and services supported by Intel and Wind River.

Open source is looking to take to the open road.

A handful of major car manufacturers, working in tandem with a couple of influential technology providers, have formed an alliance in hopes of delivering a common architecture for automotive infotainment systems.

The new Genivi Alliance is creating an in-vehicle infotainment reference design and middleware that will be based on Intel's Atom processor and a version of Linux from Wind River.

Founding members from the automotive industry include the BMW Group, Delphi, General Motors, Magneti Marelli, PSA Peugeot Citroen, and Visteon. A spokesperson said the alliance is open to adding other members not just from the automotive industry, but also the consumer electronics, communications, and software development industries as well.

The alliance, which is headquartered in San Ramon, Calif., has been steadily working on a Linux-based reference design for the past 18 months. The group collectively hopes to ship a battle-tested prototype by the end of summer. The reference implementation will first be made available as open source code.

The design, to be built around the Wind River Linux Platform for Infotainment, debuted in May. That design draws from the Intel-backed Moblin Linux stack, although alliance members have yet to decide which Atom processor will be used.

What is essentially driving automakers and their high-tech partners to establish this standard is the perpetual struggle they face in developing, testing, and deploying IVI products and services that can span not just different car models but entire generations of cars. Their hope is that the proposed reference design will provide a common architecture that will accomplish just that, plus serve to avoid the duplication of development efforts.

Alliance members also believe the reference architecture can significantly reduce the time to market for automakers and their high-tech partners, as well as total cost of ownership. In so doing, the resulting IVI systems can be made more competitive with other consumer electronics, and so could pave the way for more competitive business models.

Structurally, the platform is made up of open source middleware, application layer interfaces, and frameworks. The platform is expected to support a wide array of products and services relating to music, news, Internet, multimedia, navigation, location, and telephony.

The Genivi Alliance will have some competition out there on the infotainment highway. Microsoft this week also trotted out version 4.0 of its own infotainment stack that features added support for Intel's Z5xx series of Atom processors. Already Ford's Sync and Fiat's Blue & Me products are based on it.

The spruced-up Microsoft platform not only supports Intel's chips but also includes what Microsoft officials called "common head unit functionality." This refers to the platform's standard modules that allow for integrating CD playback, along with other applications.

Other improvements include support for a common voice-command structure that works with Bluetooth cell phone integration.

The prototype of the Genivi Alliance's reference design is due to ship this summer, according to a group spokesman.


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