Infotainment Made Easy — With Steven Bridgeland

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 22, 2010 — The process for automakers to design rich user interfaces (UIs) for in-car infotainment systems is often flawed. A designer begins by drawing the UI — sometimes even by hand — before sending the rendering to a developer. The developer’s job is to translate the designer’s vision into code that will actually make the UI look and function properly. Unfortunately problems often arise due to miscommunication between them in this phase of the process. The designer’s vision may ultimately fail to be fully represented in the final UI, and the process is time consuming due to all the necessary coding and back and forth revisions between designer and developer.

With Windows Embedded Automotive 7, Microsoft is helping to overcome these barriers by ensuring the designer’s vision can be easily translated into an optimal experience for drivers. The inclusion of Silverlight for Windows Embedded is a fundamental step, delivering an out-of-browser, native code implementation of Microsoft Silverlight for the creation of rich UIs.

Now, designers can use the familiar Expression Blend design tools to create in-car UIs, without ever having to worry about the underlying source code. With multiple presets at their fingertips, designers can customize just about anything a driver or passenger interacts with, from the fonts and margins to the radio buttons and system information details. This new functionality in Windows Embedded Automotive 7 equates to an error-free translation of a designer’s vision to the UI that actually shows up as part of the car’s infotainment system.

Another major benefit of Windows Embedded Automotive 7 is reduced time to market. The process of a developer coding every single piece of a design is painstaking and can take months to complete. With Silverlight for Windows Embedded, that process can now be completed in weeks. Also, during the design phase, an automaker’s product team can easily show functioning progress updates to any decision- makers interested in reviewing the UI — by simply pressing F5, Expression Blend creates a working prototype that launches in Windows Internet Explorer.

Control over the types of 2-D and 3-D graphics appearing on the UI also plays a pivotal role for car makers. Designers using Expression Blend have full control over every aspect of their design, including a rich HMI bezel simulator (adding a seamless integration from designer to developer) and integrated multitouch input capabilities — all focused on developing an experience that will “wow” the user.

To help explain how designers can significantly differentiate the UIs for their in-vehicle infotainment solutions, we sat down with Steven Bridgeland, senior product manager for Windows Embedded at Microsoft, for a brief walkthrough.

“One of the great things about Silverlight for Windows Embedded is that designers can build their own custom UI by modifying the Silverlight markup, without having to change the source code,” said Bridgeland. “Multiple development teams can also cross-collaborate on the construction of the software, helping to expedite the process and significantly reduce the time to market.”

When coupled with features such as Microsoft TellMe Speech Technology and other tools, Windows Embedded Automotive 7 represents the complete automotive infotainment software platform that allows automakers to get to market faster, with more compelling and safer user experiences.

For more, check out the video gallery on the Windows Embedded News Center for additional segments on the features and functionalities brought to you by Windows Embedded Automotive 7, the latest generation of software to emerge from the Windows Embedded family of products.