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iOS7's Road Could Include More Auto Integration

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 1, 2013 11:17 AM PT

Apple is reportedly working with automobile makers to push more integration of its operating system into vehicles.

iOS7's Road Could Include More Auto Integration

iOS 7 is expected to debut at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and the refreshed version might launch with a total user interface overhaul led by company design guru Jony Ive. That update will include embedding Apple apps, including Maps and Siri, into new cars, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

Several auto manufacturers already allow the use of third-party accessories to hook up their iPhones or iPods to their vehicles. Apple's iOS 7 integration, though, would involve a direct link between the car and the driver's device.

Users would be able to connect an Apple device to a console and then possibly see an iPhone screen on a vehicle display, allowing for a more complete view of an Apple Maps app optimized for driving or hands-free interaction via Siri.

The move could be devastating for the makers of the accessories that are currently used for connecting devices inside vehicles, but seamless in-car integration would be an enormous opportunity for any tech ecosystem, said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

"The vehicle of the coming years, as faster and more reliable and less expensive broadband networks roll out, has an opportunity to be a major center of communication and entertainment consumption," he told MacNewsWorld.

"Now is a particularly key time because we're in the early days of the major car manufacturers redefining their application programming," Rubin said. "They want to be responsive to their customers, and if customers are using an iPhone, they want the car to be an extension of that."

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Getting Ahead With Maps

While the opportunities are clearly there, Apple has a long way to go before its operating system can be seamless integrated into vehicles, said Emmanuel Stefanakis, assistant professor in geographic information systems and science at the University of New Brunswick.

One of the most pressing challenges is its Maps app. Apple's attempt at taking its maps platform in-house rather than using Google Maps was an infamous failure after it launched last year with incorrect directions.

An app that would be so critical for drivers would obviously need to be honed to perfection, said Stefanakis, and Apple hasn't shown it's there yet.

"Apple needs to redefine and optimize the Apple Maps," he told MacNewsWorld. "Although Apple is working towards that, there are issues that go beyond its current achievements, which might delay the release of advanced car console services by Apple or its competitors."

Expanding iOS

Aside from perfecting its Maps app, Apple also faces competition from other companies that want to capitalize on the potential for in-car integration.

Google's Android ecosystem has shown Apple that it can be a threat in the battle for mobile market share, which car manufacturers will take into account during negotiations.

"Apple is certainly not the only major ecosystem provider looking to extend into the connected car," Rubin noted. "Microsoft has been very active in this space, as well as Nokia with its mapping technology and Google has started to make some announcements. Google might have an advantage in market share, since that is what has traditionally dictated the priorities of the car companies."

Those challenges make it unlikely that a June iOS 7 launch will come with a groundbreaking vehicle announcement, he said, especially since the consoles, display and manufacturing features needed for this type of integration won't appear in a car overnight.

If Apple keeps making overall changes to iOS that make it an even more essential part of Apple users' lives, though, the company will be more able to convince auto makers that it deserves a place in vehicles.

"No one knows how smartphones and their ecosystems will evolve over the next few years, but if car companies see that there hasn't been a lot of acceptance of an operating system, they're not going to put it into their car," Rubin said. "When Apple is thinking about a partnership, they need to make sure they're thinking about their technology and how it will fit into the market in the future."

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