HANNOVER, Germany " Microsoft Corp. is pursuing a standard platform for infotainment that targets automobile electronics. The goal is to bring all infotainment and telematics applications together.
Microsoft disclosed the first details of its in-car infotainment drive at the CeBit consumer electronics exhibition here.
"We have defined the design," said J¼rgen Za, marketing manager for Europe within Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit. The software giant is seeking a platform that would unite many, if not all, applications for in-car entertainment, navigation and control of car phones. In terms of hardware, the "telematics box" would be linked to a network via a controller-area network (CAN) bus and dashboard display.
The platform will be available in several versions. Initially, a distinction between standard and high-end design is being considered, Za said. The former will meet the demands of telematics: communication via GSM and GPRS, and perhaps also via GPS for navigation. Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to use existing software technologies such as Web services, XML and .net in order, for example, to exchange status reports between a vehicle and a repair shop.
Previously, Microsoft argued that telematics could help integrate vehicles into the supply and service chains of car makers. At the same time, a high-end version of a telematics box could provide infotainment applications. Speech recognition could be a key component, but Za did not specify the extent to which it would be a component of the box.
Auto electronics has suffered from fragmentation of the market and platforms, Za said. "In the last 18 months we have conducted intense discussions with car manufacturers. We noticed a great interest in standard solutions for infotainment."
Market fragmentation has also slowed the reuse of deployed technologies. Hence, technologies have not matured and they have remained expensive. "Manufacturers have huge maintenance problems, and the servicing is very staff-intensive," says Za.
That's where Microsoft sees an opportunity: The company is currently developing a platform that will be available in a small number of variants. At the same time, the company said its platform with be flexible and, therefore, easy to use.
--Christoph Hammerschmidt is editor-in-chief of EETimes.de.