Detroit’s re-emergence as a leading automotive center is being signaled by the arrival of companies such as in-vehicle entertainment specialist XS Embedded LLC, or XSe.
Headed in the United States by Joachim Kobinger, the German company has developed a range of products, including its flexible automotive infotainment software stack OPTstack designed to be quickly ported and optimized for underlying hardware based on either Linux or QNX.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Rainer Oder, Managing Director XSe, why it was important for it to open a US subsidiary.
Oder: Personally, I’m a big fan of consulting companies. Not for their advice about financial questions or M&A strategies, but for their guidance with respect to
customer requirements. One piece of advice for companies which want to escape the global crisis, is to be very close to your customers to support them on-site. The main driver was therefore to support our customers in the North American market, especially in the greater Detroit area. On the technical side of things, the North American market is still one of the most important ones. Not only because of the customers there, but also because of potential partners and suppliers XSe can work with.
AI: Give us an idea of how important the North American market is for your company.
Oder: Detroit ships nearly 13 million cars per year. Clearly, there are many very interesting companies located around the area which has the automotive industry as a focal point. In addition, the booming electric car market is very interesting for us – with a clear spotlight on the Silicon Valley.
AI: How has it helped to have someone like Joachim Kobinger heading your US operations?
Oder: Joachim is a senior leader and veteran in the automotive industry. His expertise in product development are second to none, and he has this very special feeling for what the customer really wants, and what product feature makes the difference in the market. Joachim’s team will add great connectivity solutions to OPTstack as part of the overall stack solution or as a standalone product. XSe’s OPTstack is a modular software stack. We don’t force our customers to buy the complete stack, and are happy to work with traditional operating system vendors (OSVs) and add several building blocks to their solutions. Our components portfolio features a growing range of automotive hardware products to build the next generation infotainment systems with more modular hardware architecture.
AI: What impact has your strategic partnership with Cinemo had on OPTstack?
Oder: Cinemo is a great company. Similar to XSe, they focus on their area of expertise and offer differentiating solutions. XSe has no plans to enter the market with multi-media solutions.
There are very poor solutions offered, and we are happy to extend our portfolio with a great partner instead. In addition to Cinemo, we are closely working together with further partners in other areas, where XSe has no differentiating expertise such as navigation or HMI design. These hand-picked partners offer value in our joint pr oduct proposition.
AI: Tell us a little about XSe’s embedded in-vehicle infotainment developments over the past five years.
Oder: XSe is the result of an MBO. The new company founded in February 2010 consisted of a former advanced engineering department. This department did focus on the next generation infotainment solutions from a Tier 1 perspective in very close co-operation with OEMs and silicon vendors. After the MBO, XSe continued in exactly this area with great success. Our customers value the experience we have and the bridging between embedded hardware and software development. This is exactly what XSe has been focusing in the last two years. To offer solutions, which are truly embedded, offer cost down potential with the latest technologies applied to the right requirements, and to offer future-ready architectures along the SOC roadmaps to our customers in close co-operation with them.
AI: XSe joined the GENIVI alliance in 2009 – what role has your company played in the alliance and in other initiatives such as the MOST Cooperation?
Oder: GENIVI is an important part of XSe’s strategy. We joined the alliance as charter members. As the Lead Architect, we actively drive several Expert Groups with partners within GENIVI, and I’m personally a member of the GENIVI Board of Directors. The alliance was criticized for slow code contribution at the very start while focusing on identifying the right requirements. Now this collection of requirements contributed by OEMs, Tier 1s, silicon vendors and small technology companies like XSe is of tremendous value. GENIVI has the potential to change a large part of the industry. The programs of the past have just been too expensive, not always delivering the wanted technology step. If the automotive industry wants to keep up with the speed of CE devices or come close to that speed, we cannot develop the next system bus over and over again. This is no customer value and certainly no differentiating.
To offer commodity features in automotive quality and aligned along automotive requirements is what GENIVI is striving for.
AI: What is your vision for XSe in the next five to 10 years?
Oder: Very hard to tell. There is an internal vision that is driving us towards adding outstanding talent, differentiating technologies and even more customer focus to XSe every day. Five or 10 years from now XSe will certainly offer a more complete technical portfolio with more experience and expertise in automotive than today. However, I’m very interested if we can help to revolutionize some areas of automotive infotainment. XSe is very quick in adapting to new technologies. Certainly, we will lead in some areas since we will stay very focused on what we do best. So we are excited to be part of every revolution or evolution in this industry, which makes the car better as one of the three most important devices we have: phone, TV and car.