By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
MSN Automotive Business Unit, Microsoft's telematics division, says that BMW and five other vehicle manufacturers will announce this year that they will use Microsoft's Windows CE for automotive software in over a dozen vehicles.
BMW was the first to use the software on its Series 7 iDrive system. The software provides a basic operating system for Internet connection. "We provide the software building blocks that make it easy to create telematics devices," said Ed Lansinger, technical marketing manager.
While Microsoft admits the telematics industry has been slow to get off the ground, Lansinger says that the build-out of the digital cellular GPRS network in the United States will help spur the market. This is expected to occur over the next two years.
"You can do [telematics] on analog, but the data rate is so low it limits what you can send. The Clarion Joyride has wireless messaging, but it can only send 80 to 100 character messages at a time. If you're talking about getting a whole list of navigation directions, you'll need a higher bandwidth connection," Lansinger said.
Microsoft sees direct Internet connection combined with location-based information as the key to the future of telematics (vs. call-in center based telematics).
Users will be able to find out the location of the nearest gas station or ATM, for example. "You'll be able to have the car talk back to its manufacturer and give information on how well it is operating and the automobile manufacturer can use that information to offer services to the owner," Lansinger said. He continued, "I think telematics has a lot of promise in the future. I think we'll see that as we start to get these cars connected to the Internet."
While the BMW iDrive system currently provides general information about the vehicle, Lansinger says he is unaware of any company providing a sophisticated location-based system at present. "We see that coming up in the next two to three years," he said.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.