CarPlay, Apple Gets First In Cars

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In the last years when in the tech world, the word car was used, two things came to our minds. It was either the self-driving car that Google is currently developing, which we might be able to see in the next five years, or Tesla and the billion dollar company that Elon Musk is building. The big tech giants have been looking at the mobile market and at smart technologies and they completely forgot about a sector, the automative industry.

Even cars can be smart, there is no need to make them self-driving to be able to define them as “smart”. That’s what Apple understood by making a shy and relevant step into the cars industry. When we heard rumours that Apple was discussing with Tesla, we all thought of a possible acquisition, but probably they were talking about CarPlay, the new product released by the tech giant.

As the company reports on its website:

Available on select new cars in 2014, CarPlay is a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone in the car. CarPlay takes the things you want to do with your iPhone while driving and puts them right on your car’s built-in display. You can get directions, make calls, send and receive messages, and listen to music, all in a way that allows you to stay focused on the road. Just plug in your iPhone and go.

Instead of building a self-driving car or acquiring Tesla, Apple has built an extension to the iPhone, in a car. CarPlay is a display that supports a set of features that the iPhone already has by enabling you to use them in your car. With a simple display, Apple can make your car smarter and destroy automotive navigation systems that won’t build hardware anymore and automative radio manufactures that will be replaced by a smarter system.

The question is why? This is probably a first step for Apple that is definitely looking at this market in the same way Google has done it for the past years. CarPlay doesn’t just mean providing an extension to the iPhone users, but it means building a platform that can be extended in different ways. In a world where everything is getting smarter, cars can’t be stupid and Tim Cook is aware of that.

CarPlay will bring the innovations that Apple has been building in the last years on top of the iPhone, including Siri and Touch. It also introduces another platform, in terms of apps, that the developers are going to attack with apps dedicated just to your car. If Apple is willing to open CarPlay to developers, the rush to conquer this market will be ruthless. At the moment, the company is listing its core apps (Messages, Music, Phone) and five other apps, including Spotify and iHeartRadio.

In the case Carplay becomes a platform for developers, one of the biggest winners would be Google, who has recently acquired Waze for $1B and runs the most used Maps in the world. Although Apple has tried to introduce its own Maps, the market penetration that Google has, by being the first website in the world, can’t be even challenged.

What makes this product more relevant is the fact that it’s not going to be available just on a single car, but on all of them. Apple made sure to partner with every single car manufacturer, including brands such as Ferrari, that will release CarPlay in 2014, and Chevrolet. Instead of wondering what car, iPhone users have, Apple decided to get on all of them. This is another detail which underlines the fact that behind CarPlay there is platform that will be expanded in the next years.

I think Apple has to open this platform to developers by creating even a different Apple store dedicated to your car. Further in the next years, the iPad will have to be supported by CarPlay and also what it might be the next iWatch. Apple is not looking at smart cars, they firstly want to get there by building an ecosystem of apps that consumers can play with. In the same way, we still don’t know what Apple was discussing with Tesla, but if a smart, electric car partners or gets acquired by Apple, the game might be over, even for Google.

This week a company has innovated with a new product, now it’s time to see how the other players will reply.

Edoardo Moreni

Blogger, Political Activist, Computer Scientist and Italian.