Apple's CarPlay to roll in luxury autos
Apple Inc. raced past Microsoft and Google for dashboard supremacy Monday with a premium roster of European automakers that agreed to use the companys new in-car smartphone technology.
Luxury carmakers Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will be the first companies to introduce models equipped with CarPlay, which uses the iPhones Siri voice recognition technology to control music, maps, messaging and other features.
Its a big win for Apple, said analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Technologies of San Jose. The car is almost as ubiquitous as the television and it represents a powerful platform to deliver Apple hardware, software and services, he said.
CarPlay also works with the vehicles own knobs, buttons or touch screens. However, only owners of Apples newest models, the iPhone 5, 5s and 5C, can use the technology. The system connects to the phones using a Lightning cord.
In-car technology has emerged as the latest battleground between the three tech superpowers, Apple, Microsoft and Google. In January, Google formed the Open Automotive Alliance, which aims to bring the Android platform to cars this year. Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai and chipmaker NVIDIA joined the alliance.
Googles efforts directly challenge Microsofts voice-controlled Sync system, already installed in millions of Ford vehicles, although the system already works with the iPhone. Ford is reportedly ready to dump Microsofts Sync for CarPlay.
Apples purported expansion into the auto industry has gained steam in recent years. The Chronicle previously reported that Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with Apple executives in May amid rumors Apple wanted to buy the luxury electric carmaker.
A month later, the Cupertino tech giant first disclosed plans for iOS in the Car, an initiative connecting the companys iPhone mobile platform to auto entertainment and information systems. At the Geneva International Motor Show on Monday, Apple said Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo were going to demonstrate the technology in cars later this week.
Apple also said a gamut of the worlds best-selling name plates were ready to install CarPlay down the road, including Toyota, BMW, Kia, Jaguar Land Rover and Subaru.
IPhone users always want their content at their fingertips, and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction, Greg Joswiak, vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing, said in a statement.
In-car technology is a big topic for automakers. A recent survey by the consulting firm Accenture found that 39 percent of drivers in 12 countries said in-car technology was the primary consideration for choosing a new car.
The automakers themselves were in serious need of a fully baked smart platform and what Apple brought to them was the best of the breed, Bajarin said.
Its not clear which car models will offer CarPlay, but if Apple makes it fairly straightforward for them to adapt it and built it in, I dont see why they wouldnt put it in every model, Bajarin said.
That Apple already boasts built-in support for several third-party apps, including online audio apps Spotify, Stitcher and iHeartRadio, suggests Apple plans to integrate a wide group of third-party services in CarPlay.
Benny Evangelista is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com