Where the Automotive and Technology Industries Collide

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 12, 2010 — This week Bloomberg published an interesting article titled Ford Overcomes Alien Status in Silicon Valley as Carmakers Clamor for Apps. I had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Flinn, who wrote the story, and wanted to add a few thoughts from Microsoft’s perspective.

To me, one of the exciting points of the article is that automakers are beginning to mimic the technology industry in the way they introduce new products and features, moving away from the conventional model of showing new innovations at automotive trade shows years in advance of release. Automakers are now finding ways to be more agile and faster moving, keeping new technologies under wraps until closer to the release date.

This is one reason that Microsoft is so dedicated to advancing its Windows Embedded Automotive software platform. A consistent and standard software platform allows an automaker to focus on innovation rather than “reinventing the wheel.” Look at how much and how quickly Ford has been able to evolve SYNC since its introduction in 2007, adding features such as 911 Assist, Vehicle Health Monitoring, Traffic Directions and Information and App Link, all in less than three years and all while developing the innovative new MyFord Touch system. This is the result of great organizational agility and a focus on innovation not traditionally seen in the automotive industry. Ford has wholeheartedly embraced its role as innovators while letting the platform provide its core and reusable foundation.

Advances in smartphones and media players don’t have to equal a whole new set of infotainment technology for an automaker. With the flexible design and in-field upgradability of the Windows Embedded Automotive software platform, the in-vehicle system is easily updated to accommodate new consumer device behavior, so a simple software upgrade is all that’s needed to ensure compatibility of new devices. The platform also allows the infotainment system itself to be regularly updated through basic software updates from Microsoft rather than major overhauls, ensuring that the system can remain relevant and provide great value to a driver over the life of the vehicle. For an automaker, this means that it can spend more time focusing on providing an ideal driving experience rather than worrying about its in-vehicle infotainment system keeping pace with the fast-moving technology industry.

We’re thrilled with the success Ford is having with SYNC, and that our other automotive partners are having with their solutions built on the Windows Embedded Automotive software platform, which has a new version to be shipped in the second half of 2010. Kia and Fiat have both taken advantage of the platform to provide new applications that their drivers can download from the Web and install into their vehicles, while PACCAR has an upcoming launch customized for the commercial trucking industry. We look forward to continuing to work with PACCAR and new automotive partners to take in-vehicle infotainment to the next level.