Why Apple is revving iOS in the Car for an aggressive 2014 launch
Apple's other iOS in the Car competition
Also competing in the car market is BlackBerry subsidiary QNX, which the report noted "has global contracts with the likes of General Motors, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen." All three makers are in line to support Siri's Eyes Free, which wouldn't require much effort, but only GM and BMW have expressed public interest in adopting iOS in the Car.
A third source of competition is the GENIVI Alliance ("Geneva In-Vehicle Infotainment"), a consortium of companies that have been working since 2009 to develop an Android-like platform of open source components built on Linux.
This group counts GM, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Renault-Nissan, Hyundai and BMW among its members, and has the support of component makers including Bosch and Continental. But again, several members here are also onboard with Apple for iOS in the Car in 2014.
Note that the systems used in automotive infotainment packages are not necessarily exclusive; many systems use multiple components to deliver various vehicular information, control and entertainment systems. Makers also seek to differentiate their offerings with custom, in-house systems that make use of proprietary selling points, such as BMW's iDrive controller or Audi's similar MMI.
These systems already integrate with iPods and iOS devices, as Apple profiles in its iPod car integration gallery, which specifically highlights the existing propriety infotainment systems of Audi/Porsche/Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Infinity and Mercedes among a roster of more than three dozen car brands.
Apple's aggressive deployment of iOS in the Car
Apple is clearly gunning to take over the automotive user interface with iOS in the Car, with both its simple touchscreen controls and its Siri Eyes Free functionality it outlined last summer.
Below the user interface, Apple can also offer car makers access to its iOS custom development tools, which are already in wide use across a variety of industries and have a clear lead in the enterprise and in business in general
According to IDC, Apple has taken 62.5 percent of the business smartphone market with iPhone. It virtually owns the entire business tablet market with iPad. Given how pathetically Microsoft, Blackberry, Google and its Android licensees have floundered while struggled to produce simple consumer tablets, it would appear the automotive market is Apple's for the taking.
Apple's platform competence
One last aspect Apple is sure to leverage as it enters the automotive market is the company's unique reputation for delivering regular, progressive updates of iOS, and its uncharacteristically long-term support for devices it has sold.
While neither Google nor Microsoft have managed to support their hardware partners' Android or Windows Phone devices with platform updates beyond even a year and a half, Apple has consistently rolled out a steady stream of significant updates for iOS products for multiple years.
iPhone 4, for example, will have had an incredible four years of free updates across the lifespan of iOS 7. That's a factor that becomes important when dealing with vehicles, which unlike consumer gadgets aren't routinely replaced every year or two.
The above report by AutoNews cited Anna Buettner, a vehicle infotainment sector analyst for IHS Automotive, as noting that Apple is respected for dependability.
"The most important issue for having advanced software platforms in cars is that they have to be reliable," Buettner added. "It's one thing for a software glitch to occur in your navigation system. It will be a more serious issue in the future if one occurs in your brakes. This is what some automakers are still afraid of: Can these software operating systems be completely reliable?"
While the tech media has enthusiastically cheered on every new iOS competitor to enter the market, there hasn't been much competence and followthrough backing up the initial screen shots and promises of the Sun jPhone, Android, Palm's webOS, Samsung's Bada, BlackBerry 10, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone and Windows RT.
The smartphone-style potential in automotive
The global market for auto-integration systems is now around 12 million, according to IHS, cited in the same report. That's a figure that is expected to more than double to 25 million by 2018. And that explains why Apple is itching to get started in a big way next year, as automotive systems take off in the way smartphones began to explode around the launch of iPhone a half decade ago.
Profits in automotive are also alluring; IHS iSuppli estimated Ford Sync's core hardware to cost around $130, but Ford markets the voice activated Sync, along with a Sirius radio and a convenience package, in a option priced at $1,250.
Selling Sync was a significant priority at Microsoft. The report described a "$70 million co-branded and integrated marketing campaign" which "leveraged the global recognition of Microsoft brand name with the tagline 'SYNC, powered by Microsoft.'"
It added that "by the end of 2009, SYNC was available on over 20 of Ford's passenger vehicle models, with the feature 'take-rate' averaging approximately 70% across the line-up."
BMW's X series "technology package," which includes voice and data services, navigation, smartphone integration and support for apps, costs around $2,250 just by itself. And unlike Apple's free annual iOS updates, the company sends out invitations to their customers to pay for map software updates. This one (above) cost "just $245," or more than an iPod touch.
This appears to paint a clear picture of the automotive potential for Apple being very similar to the state of hard drive music players in 2001, smartphones in 2007 and tablets in 2010. Apple has made it pretty clear that it wants to make a big splash in automotive in 2014 as it rolls out iOS in the Car.
One more thing: tomorrow's editorial examines the strategic importance of Apple's iOS in the Car, highlighting why the new initiative is a bigger deal for Apple than it might initially appear.