• United States
by Steve Taylor and Larry Hettick

Microsoft ‘drives’ convergence

Dec 08, 20032 mins

* Microsoft’s Windows Automotive demo wows Comdex

Today, we’d like to award a “coolest demo of the show” award to Microsoft’s recent display of its Windows Automotive initiative at Comdex Las Vegas.

What caught our eye was the minivan stationed at the main entrance to Comdex, complete with “Windows Automotive” decals. Casting aside our first impression that Microsoft had decided to take on General Motors and Ford by manufacturing cars, we looked a bit closer at the demo. It turns out Microsoft hasn’t started to manufacture cars – but it is actively involved in the manufacturing process and in the car-driving experience.

Microsoft’s .Net telematics systems blend wireless and computing technologies for automotive use, providing information access to and from the World Wide Web and the telephone network. Applications range from speech-enabled phone calls to navigation aids to infotainment systems to maintenance diagnostics. The technology is based on Windows CE, and it is available and supported by 17 different auto manufacturers, including BMW, Citroen, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo.

When we asked about security and reliability, a Microsoft spokesman noted that the information services do not perform any “mission-critical” applications (like actually driving the car), so even if the system is unavailable, safety remains unaffected. The systems are protected by vendor-controlled, vendor-specific hardware and software.

We’ve discussed unified communications in previous newsletters, pointing out that the telephony user interface (TUI) and graphical user interface (GUI) are standard. Perhaps it’s time to consider a third interface category: the car user interface (CUI).