Microsoft makes a fresh bid to increase visibility in the automotive market

April 08, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
At its recent developers conference, Build 2014 in San Francisco, Microsoft showed a prototype for a software that brings the Windows user interface with its characteristic tiles to vehicle infotainment systems. With the move, Microsoft is making its software visible within cars for the first time .

Former versions of Microsoft operating systems (Windows Automotive Embedded, a modified version of Windows CE) acted as a platform for carmakers to implement their own user interface. Examples are Fiat's 'Blue and Me' or Ford's SYNC. In contrast, the version demonstrated at Build 2014 shows Microsoft's own look-and-feel. The software reportedly uses MirrorLink technology to integrate a smartphone into the vehicle. Running the head unit, Windows in the Car allows users to play music stored on the smartphone while displaying associated cover images. Likewise, the software can access the contact list stored in the smartphone and establishes phone calls. To maintain driving safety and avoid driver distraction, application developers will have the possibility to deactivate their apps in 'drive' mode.

This is how Microsoft displays smartphone contacts on the centre screen of the car

Also shown at the developers conference was map functionality (from Microsoft's Bing) but it remains unclear to what extent it will be used for navigation purposes - during the presentation the software crashed.

Timing for a market roll-out is also unclear. Microsoft currently seems to have dropped behind competitors like Apple. A request for a comment from Microsoft elicited only, "We will only communicate anything when we will have a product", from a spokesperson.

Recently, reports surfaced that Ford would consider replacing Microsoft's operating system in its SYNC infotainment system with QNX. However, Ford has refuted these reports. "The next SYNC generation will be based on Microsoft software", a Ford spokesperson said.

See a video of the Build presentation