Bringing smart technology inside the cars for infotainment is not a new innovation in 2014. Microsoft did it years back with its Windows Embedded in cars from Ford and others. Microsoft provided the platform for auto maker to build on and they were quite successful. In the era of smartphones, consumers are expecting more from their infotainment systems in their cars. Instead of trying to create a new platform for automobiles and expect developers to write applications for it, Apple and Google are going the other way around. They are trying to use the smartphone as the primary system with car’s infotainment system that will act like a thin client.
For example, Apple’s iOS in the car will use car’s display to show a new UI of iOS optimized for driving experience will let drivers get access to Apple Maps, music, videos, Siri, voice calls, text dictation and more. Apple has signed up automakers like Honda/Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan/Infiniti, Ferrari, Chevrolet/Opel, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo and Jaguar for this integration and they are about to make an official announcement on roll-out soon.
Apple’s VP of software & services said the following during iOS in the car announcement,
“the bigger opportunity for Apple and its ecosystem is becoming essential not just for people texting, checking news, watching movies, and playing games, but for massive growth areas such as transportation, home automation, and health care,”
Google on its part announced Open Automotive Alliance, the OAA is a global alliance of technology and auto industry leaders committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014. Just like they did for Android with Open Handset Alliance they are trying to make Android a default OS in all the cars. Their founding partners include Audi, Hyundai, Honda, GM and more.
We’re dedicated to accelerating innovation in the car with an approach that offers openness, customization and scale. We believe that a common platform will help drive innovation, and make technology in the car safer and more intuitive for everyone.
A recent job listing from Daimler, the company that makes Mercedes-Benz revealed another Google’s auto project called Projected Mode that will be integrated into all Mercedes-Benz cars in the future. Google’s Projected Mode is similar to Apple’s iOS in the car where vehicle’s controls and displays will be integrated with Android smartphone allowing drivers to get access to text messages, directions, and more.
Microsoft has a platform for automakers called Windows Embedded Automotive 7 which is an extensible technology platform for automakers and suppliers to deliver in-car experiences that keep drivers connected and informed. Windows Embedded Automotive 7 is a great platform, but automakers barely make use of it other than providing few basic functionalities. Also, developers have very little interest in creating apps for another platform. The main issue is, Microsoft does not have a program like iOS in the car or Projected Mode that will allow car makers to integrate with Windows Phone devices using their existing technology in their cars.
I think Microsoft is losing yet another opportunity/market even though it came too earlier than others. People buy cars which costs more than $20000 in average, and they expect their smartphone to fully integrate with it. People may try to switch smartphone platforms for their cars because it costs just $600 for a brand new smartphone that works great with their cars, but not the vice versa of buying a brand new car for $20000 that integrates with their smartphone. Windows Phone users may soon realize it when Apple’s iOS in the car and Google’s Projected Mode project goes live soon.
I think Microsoft should act quick and fix their strategy around the Automotive space. It’s not just about the platforms anymore, it is the whole eco-system. What do you think?