updated 07:58 pm EDT, Mon April 7, 2014
Revamps auto platform following Sync setbacks
In a somewhat startling direct lift from Apple, Microsoft announced a new "Windows in the car" initiative based on Windows Phone and Windows 8 that would mirror most of what Apple previously called "iOS in the Car" last summer before renaming it CarPlay. The concept, unveiled at last week's Build conference in San Francisco, comes on the heels of Ford's rejection of Microsoft's previous system in its Sync interface in favor of a BlackBerry-powered in-vehicle infotainment system.
The new system, still at the concept stage at this point, offers the ability to control some vehicle functions (such as turning the defroster on or off) as well as the usual set of entertainment, messaging and navigation options consumers would expect of modern vehicles, wrapped in a touch-oriented Windows 8/RT type interface, featuring Live Tiles, reports AppleInsider. Microsoft product executive Steve Teixeira noted that both third-party developers and automobile manufacturers will be able to add to or modify the system.
The system would have two different modes, allowing full app use on the in-vehicle touchscreen if the vehicle was in "park" while limiting itself to more essential functions when the drive is engaged. "One of the things that we will aim to do is enable application builders to write apps that conform with good, safe drive mode behavior and safe drive mode user interface standards," said Teixeira.
The company is said to be in the testing phase with the concept, showing it to various car manufacturers. It is based on the MirrorLink protocol standard, which should help with adoption, and opens the possibility of aftermarket products using the technology as well. There was no indication from Microsoft about when the concept might come to market, but it is only in very early testing, according to Microsoft.
The company specifically mentioned interest from Ford, Kia, BMW, Nissan and Fiat, most of whom are already Microsoft partners for infotainment systems. All but Fiat have also agreed to use Apple's CarPlay system, though not in any of the current release-year vehicles. For the current model year, selected cars from Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will offer CarPlay iOS integration.