Apple’s offering for 2014 will now have prospective car buyers adding an additional must-have feature to their checklist – Is this vehicle compatible with my Smartphone? Apple’s CarPlay is a system that converts a vehicle’s in-car entertainment system into an iOS-powered dashboard-fed content and brains by the iPhone.
This development could massively expand the Apple ecosystem – turning cars into app-enabled iPhone accessories and adding cars to the list of gadgets Apple will specialise in. Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, Volvo and a host of other brands will be rolling out CarPlay-enabled vehicles in the near future.
While information and entertainment systems in cars are not a new technology, many companies have been vying for the kind of attention and growth potential that Apple has now swept away with its first mover’s advantage. With this announcement, Apple has managed to pull the carpet out from under Google & Microsoft’s feet – albeit not for long.
Google launched its own Android-based car system earlier this year called the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA). The aim behind the OAA is to enable developers to create systems that can bring Android apps to cars in a safe and easy-to-operate way. Vehicle manufacturers supporting the OAA include Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and NVidia – manufacturer of the Tegra 4 processor that powers several Android tablets and smartphones.
Even Microsoft has a system called Microsoft Sync that allows users to connect Smartphones to in-car entertainment systems and the dashboard. With its limited voice control functionality, it can also pull contacts and other data from a Smartphone to manage calls and messages. The system is currently available in a range of cars, including Ford’s Fiesta and Focus.
Analysts have always been sceptical about such developments in the entertainment and information systems, because after the months of testing and modifications, the systems are considered outdated by the time they are launched. Another issue is that most of the time this technology is slow to evolve – meaning the changes aren’t as rapid or robust as mobile technology. Apple’s move however, is a clear indicator that the company has identified the car as the next extension of its iPhone – which is yet another way to introduce users to the Apple ecosystem. With users being drawn into its little world with more evolving extensions, Apple makes it increasingly unnecessary or difficult for users to switch or move to any other platform – especially Android or the Microsoft Windows phone.
This technology is however, definitely one of two things – either a brilliant marketing ploy; or a bane of emerging technologies. None of these technologies work backwards yet, which means a user will still have to buy a new Smartphone-compatible car to enjoy these comforts. Vehicles already manufactured without these technologies may not be much-sought after, and newer vehicles could only add to the already crowded automobile sector – which is probably not the best solution just as yet.