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Microsoft Unveils ‘Windows in the Car’ Concept

April 7, 2014

Sometime after Apple’s CarPlay was introduced, Microsoft offers the world a glimpse of its rival—Windows in the Car. At its Build 2014 developer conference last week, the company debuted a demo of its own Metro-based user interface for automobiles.

For many years, Microsoft has been behind some of the car entertainment systems used by many auto manufacturers. BMW, Nissan, Kia and Fiat are some of the car manufacturers which have utilized certain Windows versions to develop systems and interfaces of their own. Ford Sync is one platform that uses one version of Windows for mobile syncing purposes.

With the arrival of the Windows in the Car concept, it seems like Microsoft will now be focusing on an in-car system that is truly its own rather than powering the platforms of others. Interestingly, it is being introduced at a time when consumers already know and anticipate Apple’s CarPlay.

There is no doubt that Windows in the Car is Microsoft’s response to CarPlay. Like Apple’s concept, it was designed to enable users to view what is on their phone screen on the vehicle’s infotainment system display. It was created to let Windows Phone users extend the functionality of their mobile phones directly to the vehicle dashboard.

Windows in the Car will allow users to do what they need to do with their phones through their vehicles. They can read emails and messages, make calls and access apps such as Maps, Spotify, Xbox Radio and Amazon MP3. Moreover, it will let drivers to control in-car settings, such as defrost.

Of course, it will also enable users to see key information related to driving. The Start page is not without the speed limit details.

Windows in the Car resembles Windows 8, albeit a smaller version, wherein there are tiles and sections that users can access by swiping the interface.

Microsoft’s Steve Teixeiria, who revealed the demo video, said that developers will be able to make apps especially for the car. During the demo, a marketplace in certain parts of the user interface was revealed. Teixeira stressed that there was an opportunity for developers to create apps made for or related to safe driving.

Windows in the Car is a concept that is already being tested in real cars. The prototype makes use of the connectivity standard Mirrorlink. It is currently utilized by Nokia’s Symbian handsets as well as Sony Xperia Z smartphones. Mirrorlink is expected to be further utilized for auto infotainment systems, especially since auto companies like Citroen, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen are all currently working on vehicles supported by the standard. Aftermarket car radio suppliers such as Alpine and Pioneer are backing it as well.

Microsoft has yet to set a release date for Windows in the Car and has not revealed any shipping plans. Teixeiria also did not mention if there were automakers which have expressed interest in using Windows in the Car. The lack of information suggests that while Microsoft’s latest tech could be available in the future, it will take a while before consumers will finally get to use it in their cars.

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