Microsoft has been very clear, all along, that it is not making an actual car, but instead is focused on the platforms and services that will define the user experience of connected cars of the future. And on that note, the company has announced the new Azure-based cloud platform for car manufacturers, at CES 2017.
Any carmaker will be able to integrate and use the cloud to integrate and offer their own connected-car services. Microsoft says that the new Connected Vehicle Platform will go live as a public preview later this year.
“This is not an in-car operating system or a finished product. It’s a living, agile platform that starts with the cloud as the foundation and aims to address five core scenarios that our partners have told us are key priorities: predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and help building autonomous driving capabilities," said Peggy Johnson, executive vice-president for business development, Microsoft, in an official statement. Unlike Google, which has now spun off its own self-driving car unit, as have a lot of other tech giants, Microsoft is clear that their Connected Vehicle platform is designed to help automakers create connected car solutions, address customer requirements, and customize to differentiate their products from rivals.
And there is a lot of progress for Microsoft in the connected car space. The company has announced that it is partnering with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to bring the new connected-car services to the carmaker’s upcoming connected vehicles. Microsoft will be the Alliance’s first partner in this space. German carmaker BMW is also looking to develop its BMW Connected platform leveraging the Azure services. It has already shown off a concept that relies heavily on the integration of Microsoft’s Cortana voice-enabled digital assistant. In fact, it is critical for Microsoft to make available Cortana to third-party developers for the connected car ecosystem, because Amazon has now done the same with Alexa, its own digital assistant.