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Wire your phone into the Jag dashboard via VNC

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MWC 2012 Sony will pre-load RealVNC's server onto all its Xperia handsets in 2012, enabling cars to control phones and customer support to reach out and touch you right on the screen.

VNC is a widely supported standard for using computers remotely, and already allows one to take over a desktop PC from a mobile phone. Cambridge-based RealVNC sells VNC servers for desktops, and clients for devices, but is now reversing that model to allow a car's touch screen and steering wheel buttons to control an Android phone. In theory, it'll also allow a network operator's support desk to take over a customer's screen to change settings or walk them through applications.

That last bit won't be enabled on the new Sony handsets; RealVNC just provides the APIs and leaves the network operators (or anyone else) to create applications, but the vehicle integration is immediate and if one were to buy a brand new Jaguar or Land Rover then one's Android handset could provide all the infotainment one could want or need.

That won't be limited to Sony Xperia handsets: the standard is called "VNC Automotive” and should be widely supported. The idea is that phones get replaced annually while vehicles last a bit longer, so rather than trying to keep the in-car electronics communicating with the ever-changing handsets, just give up and cede music, radio and satellite navigation to the phone. The dashboard-mounted screen just echoes the handset screen, the most complicated part being the mapping of the steering wheel buttons (for volume, next track, etc).

RealVNC has been demonstrating the capability behind closed doors for a while now, having developed VNC servers for Android, BlackBerry and Symbian (no iOS - screen scraping isn't allowed by Apple so we'll have to wait for Cupertino's official support for VNC Automotive).

But the technology suffered from a chicken-and-egg problem which only changed when Jaguar Land Rover got involved. Now Sony is embedding the technology it should spread pretty quickly to the detriment of the in-car entertainment business, but the delight of those of us tired of discovering the only CD left in the car is another copy of Queen's Greatest Hits. ®

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