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April 13, 2014

Geneva Motor Show March, 2014 - Who is "calling"?

Among the headline makers this year, at Geneva Motor Show held in March,2014, was launch of CarPlay.

CarPlay, is a system for integrating iPhone5 and its higher versions to the vehicle's entertainment system. Users can then control various phone features like call, text, music and navigation, using in-vehicle controls, such as steering wheel buttons, touchscreen or SIRI from the iPhone.

So, what is the buzz about? Why there is such an anticipation building with analysts, industry honchos and customers at this launch? Haven't we been witnessing increasing footprint of telematics for the last decade or so now?

Here are some of the larger scenarios and ramifications (for both automobile and consumer electronics) being discussed by analysts in various forums:-

 1. Automobiles - A new platform for consumer electronics to expand: With a forecasted one in two new cars (about 50 million) produced being connected by 2020 globally, this presents a relatively unexplored market for the Hi-Tech/Consumer Electronics industry giants to tap into. Potentially, we are looking at millions of cars as iOS and Android platforms for customized Apps and accessories.  

(Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sarwantsingh/2014/03/19/apple-in-cars-what-does-it-mean-for-the-car-industry-and-google/)

Earlier this year, at CES 2014, Google also announced an alliance with leading car manufacturers, that may see infotainment systems running on the open-source operating system this year.

2. Standardization of user interface: Imagine the customers of iPhone and Android smartphones, getting the same user interface and ease of navigation on their in-vehicle entertainment systems, as they are used to on their smartphones. This will translate into a big surge of Apps, services usage for the device manufacturers.

3. Battle for supremacy on multiple fronts, and competition for OEMs: We will witness contest of iOS Maps v/s Google Maps, iTunes Radio v/s other radio/entertainment services, and serious competition for telematics OEMs and suppliers of the likes of Delphi, Harmans and so on.

4. Good news for car companies: The biggest advantage for car companies is that they can focus all their R&D and spend on hardware and car mechanical design and innovation while benefiting from the shorter product release cycles of the consumer devices industry. This also gives them ability for launching quicker upgrades of in-vehicle entertainment software in the vehicles within 1 year timeframe; which is quite unlike the extensive timelines of 4 to 6 years cycle to bring innovation to market.

5. Customers are set to gain and be happy: Every time, any market sees more competition, customers are set to benefit with more feature rich products, quicker upgrades, dropping costs and increasingly better customer service and this in turn feeds into higher demands. And that is what each sector and economy needs to keep growing.

With the Hi-Tech giants descending in the auto industry with all seriousness, we can expect their next battle to be fought in our car consoles.

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