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In-Car Infotainment: The Next Google-Apple Battleground

In-Car Infotainment: The Next Google-Apple Battleground
By Jennifer LeClaire

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Google and Apple both smell opportunity. They're trying to line up allies to bring their technologies into the vehicle. Google is battling against Apple’s “iOS in the Car” initiative. Apple's iOS in the Car promises seamless integration with an iOS device -- along with the iOS experience -- and a driver’s in-dash system.

The fight between Google and Apple is moving to a new venue. The tech companies are preparing to ratchet up their operating system wars on a truly mobile platform -- cars. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google and Audi AG are planning to announce a joint effort to develop in-car entertainment and information systems that are based on the Android operating system.

A part of what’s known as infotainment or telematics, in-car entertainment systems have been featured on TV shows such as MTV's Pimp My Ride. In-car entertainment has been become more widely available as costs have declined for devices like LCD screen/monitors as well as for converging media playable technologies.

We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on the talk. He told us Google has had its maps in various cars for some time, but the new Audi relationship lets Google expand the Android platform into the automobile.

“Google competitors Apple and Microsoft are obviously involved in similar efforts and have a head start. Thus there's a defensive element here. However, Google also sees a significant opportunity to reach an audience that it currently cannot effectively reach. In some ways, it's analogous to Google trying to get into TV,” he said.

“Cars are a new arena for consumer Internet access and competition. Google can potentially deliver services, apps and advertising to the consumer through the in-car Internet experience. If you step back, you see Google expanding across platforms: PC, mobile, wearables, TV (the living room) and now more extensively into the car,” he added.

Apple Out First

According to the Journal, which cited “people familiar with the matter” as its sources, Google and Audi are also planning to disclose collaborative efforts with other automotive and tech companies, including chipmaker Nvidia, to position Android as an important technology for next-generation vehicles.

"The car is becoming the ultimate mobile device," Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at the research firm Gartner Inc. who specializes in advanced in-car electronics, told the Journal. "Apple and Google see that and are trying to line up allies to bring their technology into the vehicle."

Google is battling against Apple’s “iOS in the Car” initiative. Announced last summer with the roll out of iOS 7, iOS in the Car promises seamless integration with an iOS device -- along with the iOS experience -- and a driver’s in-dash system.

“If your vehicle is equipped with iOS in the Car, you can connect your iPhone 5 or later and interact with it using the car’s built-in display and controls or Siri Eyes Free,” Apple explained on its Web site. ‘Now you can easily and safely make phone calls, access your music, send and receive messages, get directions, and more. It’s all designed to let iPhone focus on what you need, so you can focus on the road.” (continued...)

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Posted: 2013-12-31 @ 4:18pm PT
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