In the claim and counter-claim of the connected car frontier, the land grab has escalated from digital services planting flags on digital dashboards to broad technology platforms largely defining the operating systems of driving. In other words, Apple and Google are belting it out for dominance, just as they are with smartphones and tablets. The car is becoming a consumer electronics device.
In its the latest parry, Apple has announced nine new automakers to sign on with Apple’s dashboard OS, called CarPlay — Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Mazda, and Ram. Those auto brands join an existing list of 20 other carmakers.
The PR ball is in Google’s court, but it would be unfair to say that Google is playing catch-up. In January, Google created the Open Automotive Alliance, with an initial consortium of GM, Audi, Honda, and Hyundai.
Last week at its developer conference, Google demonstrated Hyundai’s implementation of Android Auto, a dashboard operating system that matches the key functions of Apple CarPlay. The Android Auto web page lists 28 car companies poised to roll out Android-powered dashboards.
As computing goes mobile, the car becomes a key battleground for these two ecosystem companies. Starting with a few 2015 car models, and increasingly over the next few years, technology-minded consumers will decide on car purchase with some of the same criteria with which they choose smartphones.
If the duopoly of smartphone operating systems takes hold in new-car dealerships, the distribution challenge could become simpler for music services which are attempting to unseat AM/FM radio as the primary listening mode in cars. Pandora, iHeartRadio, and other services will approach Apple and Google as the two main distribution portals into the car, much as those services (and many others) do now with smartphone and tablet apps.