Internet in the car – who needs something like that? This question brings back memories of the noughties for Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, a pioneer in the tech industry. At that time, his company Opera, which he co-founded and managed, developed a first browser for mobile phones. He was met with incomprehension, reports the Icelander: "People said: 'Why do you want to surf on your cell phone?'" It's only worthwhile for stock prices, and the WAP wireless standard is too weak. "We thought differently back then," says von Tetzchner - and feels confirmed by the smartphone.
The 55-year-old now predicts a similar triumph of mobile internet for cars. In fact, the first manufacturers are allowing drivers to access the network via the on-board computer when the car is parked. They include Polestar, Audi, Renault and Mercedes-Benz. In the future, all four will use the browser that von Tetzchner stands for today: Vivaldi.
After separating from Opera ten years ago, he founded a new browser company under this name in Oslo. His program is the only one of its kind so far that also runs in the car - apart from Tesla's own solution. There is no such browser from Google, on whose Android software most of the car user interfaces are based. "We were a bit surprised because we've been there for over a year now and we're still the only ones," says von Tetzchner.
The launch of the Volkswagen app store this summer will be a big step for the car internet. As in the Apple App Store or Google Play, users can then load programs directly onto the car display, including Vivaldi. Initially, the store will be available at Audi, later in the entire fleet of the VW Group. Of course, the tech giants could then develop browsers for the car and put them in the VW store. That probably won't happen at the start.
Tesla's web browser, on the other hand, is not comparable to the usual programs. CEO Elon Musk himself described him as “lousy” last year. "If you try to use the web browser in the car, it takes a very long time to load and it's a crap browser. It's a lot worse than an iPad from five years ago," he said in an interview.
The same cannot be said of Vivaldi. Von Tetzchner, who during his time as head of Opera witnessed the legal battles of the EU Commission against Microsoft for preferential treatment for Internet Explorer, promises maximum data protection in addition to clever functions. “As a company, we are very much against data collection. So we don't collect any browsing data either," he says.
The tech pioneer sees a problem for Tesla if its competitors increasingly open app stores in cars. With its closed system, Tesla is then in danger of lagging behind, says von Tetzchner. “They have developed really good software. But the question is how to get applications. I don't know how we could get our software into a Tesla today." An "ecosystem" with many programs is simply superior to a closed offer.
After all, Internet access in the car will “change everything,” says the Vivaldi boss. You can use it to watch videos, play games or work - everything that is also possible on a smartphone or a computer.
It is conceivable that you could connect a keyboard to the on-board computer and take part in video conferences via the interior camera and the screen. It still only works when the car is stationary. But autonomous vehicles can become mobile offices. Or to the living room.
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