Streaming apps – and maybe even Cloud PCs – coming to electric cars

What else are you going to do while waiting for it to charge?

What are you going to do in the 90-odd minutes it takes to charge your electric car?

Some EV owners are already using the time to access cloud PCs and streaming apps from their in-car computer.

Ram Pasala, co-founder of Indian desktop and application-streaming company Neverinstall, last week told The Register that about one percent of the sessions his company serves are consumed on a Tesla's front touchscreen.

Teslas are all connected to cellular networks and include at least one touchscreen that runs a Chromium-based browser. That's all Neverinstall needs as a target for its streaming apps and desktops.

Pasala said it's not just techies who see charging time as a good opportunity to stream apps: a major European automaker recently inquired about integrating Neverinstall's offerings because it believes EV owners will want access to cloudy apps. The co-founder told The Register he's certain that automaker, which he declined to name due to commercial confidentiality, is also talking to his rivals.

The unnamed vehicle vendor is likely interested in app streaming because the industry is alive to the possibility of charging for subscriptions that enhance the EV experience. Analyst firm Gartner's Top Automotive Trends for 2023, published in January, identifies "Functions as a service (FaaS)" as "an opportunity to generate an ongoing revenue stream beyond the purchase of the vehicle."

It's assumed that most of those functions will be related to the driving experience. Mercedes tried to charge $1,200 to add an extra 100 horsepower to its EVs, while BMW made heated seats a subscription service. Infotainment apps and streaming media are other functions considered a hot market.

But Gartner also warned that while automakers understand they need to become software companies, "their corporate mindset is, in many cases, lacking."

"A company that doesn't truly understand the value of software will struggle not only to be good at it but also to understand the major risk it could represent."

Automotive cyber security is therefore a significant risk that could perhaps be mitigated by streaming applications rather than running them on a vehicle's inbuilt computers. That would be good for Neverinstall, but perhaps an indication that interest in its wares is less about a rollout of rolling-desktops-as-a-service and more about secure app delivery – a role in which streaming apps and desktops have a long history satisfying users in highly-regulated industries.

In conversation with The Register, Pasala explained that his outfit happily streams Linux desktops, but sometimes has to confront customer objections to use of the open source OS.

If automakers package Linux properly, that objection could go away. Having waited so long for the year of Linux on the desktop, might we now hope for Linux on the road? ®

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