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Apple Puts Siri in the Driver's Seat

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 12, 2012 3:00 PM PT

Along with the new software and hardware offerings Apple announced on Monday came a list of automakers that will partner with Cupertino to tie their cars to Siri. A new version of the virtual personal assistant will be released with iOS 6. The roster of carmakers includes Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.

Apple Puts Siri in the Driver's Seat

The news was revealed just as Apple announced a related bit of news: its own mapping system that will provide services like turn-by-turn navigation.

The combination of mapping services and an integrated Siri service could signal a strong move by Apple into the connected automobile arena.

Double Trouble From Maps and Siri

Apple's Maps feature, which will be released in iOS 6, was designed by Apple from the ground up. It provides turn-by-turn spoken directions, interactive 3D views and a Flyover view.

Tie that into Siri's capability to, say, locate a nearby restaurant when you're driving and, if necessary, help you book a table, and the two applications may pose a threat to existing standalone GPS systems and perhaps in-vehicle infotainment systems currently in use.

Apple Maps "is going to be a strategic play for Apple," John Canali, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told MacNewsWorld.

In addition, personal navigation device (PND) makers such as Garmin, TeleNav and TeleCommunication Systems, might take a hit. Google Maps certainly has been a casualty.

Just Another Automotive Product

However, "there are equivalent competitive solutions from Google Voice, VoiceBox, Nuance, Microsoft Tellme and maybe even others to come," Roger C. Lanctot, an associate director at Strategy Analytics, told MacNewsWorld. "The only magic to Siri is, it comes from Apple."

VoiceBox "has the edge with GM, Toyota and Hyundai implementations," Lanctot continued. "Siri is purely on the phone today, and now on a separate piece of hardware interfacing to the phone. It is not integrated with on-board systems the way VoiceBox is."

"Both Microsoft and Google are clearly working to remain competitive," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "Of the three, Apple is actually the weakest when it comes to in-car systems; its strength is getting iPods and iPhones to tie into existing car systems. This will be very different."

Further, it might be quite a while before Siri is available in automobiles preloaded at the factory. "Typically, it takes up to five years to get a new technology into a car, and it'll be interesting to see how long it takes and whether [Siri] will be obsolete by the time it arrives," Enderle told MacNewsWorld. "Right now [Siri] would be a game-changer."

It's an Automotive Thing

The love in this relationship is coming from the automakers. "Apple is probably the one company that just about anybody is really keen to bring onboard because they bring such a loyal following of consumers," Strategy Analytics' Canali remarked. "So it's always nice to promote your ties to Apple, and the [automotive] OEMs have been pretty eager to do this for a while, I think"

For Apple, automotive "is obviously a very small market," Canali said. "The number of iPhones and iPads they sell in a single quarter dwarfs the number of automobiles sold globally in a year."

Voice recognition and maps have "become intrinsic elements of so-called automotive software platforms," Strategy Analytics' Lanctot said. "It is a platform battle for consumer eyeballs and mindshare and app developer support. The car is the lowest priority target relative to such markets as mobile and smartphones, but the driver is a valuable target."

The trend is toward using voice to reduce distraction and mitigate the potential cost of call centers to deal with embedded telematics systems -- the smart chips that report on what's going on in a user's car. "This is just the change that is sweeping the industry, and Siri is just one solution," Lanctot said. "Apple is playing catch-up here and capturing headlines."

Apple did not respond to our request for further details.

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Which of these tech companies has the greatest *positive* impact on society?