MADISON, Wis. — The Android vs. iOS apps battle is coming to the automotive industry in 2014.
The fireworks are about to begin between the two software giants, as the automobile platform is becoming the next big thing for app developers traditionally engaged in designing software for mobile phones.
Google will come to Las Vegas next month at the International Consumer Electronics Show, ready to roll out the company's response to Apple's iOS in the Car.
In addition to Android in the Car, the announcement will involve the formation of an industry consortium and the adoption of communication standards, EE Times has learned. Google's goal, presumably, is to make it easier for developers to design apps for cars.
After all, car OEMs aren't exactly known for their skills in developing apps, while no app developers in their right mind would want to develop so many different versions of an app separately -- for Ford, General Motors, BMW, and Toyota.
Details are still sketchy. But there is every reason for stakeholders to come together, as the in-vehicle applications have gone digital.
Who will control in-car UI?
At issues, though, is who will control the user interface for cars -- iPhone apps, Android apps, or carmakers -- and more important, who delivers the best UI in a safe, appropriate mode to drivers.
"iOS in the Car is definitely a game changer," said Dan Loop, business development manager, automotive applications processors for Freescale Semiconductors, in a recent interview with EE Times. He explained that the goal of working with a software company like Apple would be to bring iPhone screen, and apps running in iPhones, to the "infotainment" system in a car. For that, "You need system-level integrations in cars."
The same applies to Android. Google is planning to use Miracast, a peer-to-peer wireless screencasting standard formed via WiFi Direct, to display apps running on Android phones on an in-car infotainment screen. But of course, Loop noted, that assumes that WiFi signals are present inside a car.
There's no question that the mobile devices consumers are bringing into their cars are redefining in-car infotainment.
But compatibility issues between cars and mobile devices loom large.
In an interview with EE Times, Danny Shapiro, automotive director for Nvidia, asked, "Do carmakers want to test all the phones? Or do phone companies want to test all the cars?" Probably not.
A host of new mobile apps can offer services useful to drivers. A parking finder app in your mobile phone, for example, can be integrated with an in-car navigation system, said Shapiro. The hitch is that, while driving, you can't keep consulting your mobile phone to find out what the app says.