Wouldn’t it be great if there were a common standard for all technology platforms? Developers and engineers would have one common set of protocols and design parameters so everything would be compatible. Unfortunately, industry standards often run counter to competitive advantage. One manufacturer or software developer wants their platform to dominate so their intellectual property controls the markets. At the same time, consumers are demanding more features and functions in their cars. To differentiate their brands, OEMs need to develop new connected car technologies, but what’s the best development strategy in a fragmented mobile market?
Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android continue to duke it out for smartphone market supremacy. In the U.S. market, iOS and Android are running nearly neck-and-neck. A recent report from Kantar Worldpanel shows that Apple’s iOS accounted for 47.7 percent of sales in Q4 of 2014 while sales of Google Android devices accounted for 47.6 percent. In the global market, Android clearly dominates over iOS. According to IDC, in Q2 of 2015, Android had 82.8 percent of the international market and iOS had 13.9 percent.
OEMs will embrace smartphones as the easy path to develop their connected car infotainment strategy, and given the way the market is fragmented, they can’t afford to choose sides. Therefore, most OEMs are going to be looking for solutions that allow them to support both Apple and Google mobile OS platforms, and retain control over the IVI brand experience.
Respecting the Brand ExperienceAutomakers understand that the human machine interface (HMI) is an integral part of the brand experience. Car buyers interact with the interior console and IVI more than any other part of the vehicle, so creating a unique and positive experience is critical. And the more sophisticated the IVI, the greater the need for an advanced HMI.
A study by Frost & Sullivan revealed that 43 percent of drivers in North America and Europe want an advanced, built-in HMI as standard equipment. The analyst firm predicts that to meet demand, automakers are going to shift away from developing their own in-vehicle services (except for luxury brands) and are trying to come up with a standardized smartphone interface, taking advantage of the sophisticated HMI already bundled with iOS and Android.
Mobile users are even fiercer in their loyalty for smartphone platforms. Apple lovers won’t surrender their iPhones, and Android users won’t switch to Apple. An RBC Capital Markets poll revealed that 83 percent of iPhone owners would buy another iPhone, where 64 percent of Samsung owners would buy another Samsung phone. In addition, 10 percent of Samsung users would switch to iPhone where only 4 percent of iPhone users would switch to Samsung. So OEMs are faced with the challenge of having to develop for both platforms or risk ignoring a significant segment of the market.
Yes, We Have No StandardsIn addition to dueling smartphone platforms, there is no auto industry standard to connect cars to smartphones. Ford has recently made its AppLink open source as SmartDeviceLink so more developers can use their connectivity standard. The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has built an alliance of consumer electronics companies (spearheaded by Nokia) to promote MirrorLink as the preferred open standard for car connectivity. However, neither platform has taken the connected car community by storm. Only a handful of in-car devices from Alpine, Sony, and JVC are available with MirrorLink and not all Nokia and Samsung smartphones been tested for compatibility.
The smartphone vendors are pushing their own developer agenda. Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Open Automotive Alliance are the two primary development platforms available from the smartphone vendors. Both provide sophisticated development environments for their respective smartphone systems, but remain slow to fully open up their automotive offerings to the developer community.
The long-term goal, of course, is to develop a common interoperability standard that makes integration between the IVI systems and the smartphone seamless and secure. As long as there are multiple standards and the marketplace doesn’t give a clear indication of preference to one approach or another, the same applications are going to be rewritten for different platforms.
Choosing Not to ChooseSmart OEMs are finding ways to develop for iOS and Android with branded apps and interfaces that don’t lock them in for the future.
WEBLINK, for example, offers the ideal platform that allows OEMs to develop their own branded connected car solutions using both the iOS and Android as an interface. Using WEBLINK as the communications interface, data is delivered to the IVI interface via smartphone. WEBLINK also lets you develop one IVI application that is compatible for both iOS and Android, so it has the same features and look and feel. With WEBLINK, the OEM can develop custom apps for the IVI without worrying about the delivery platform.
By using WEBLINK OEMs don’t have to choose a mobile platform, and they retain control of proprietary data. Data is transmitted from the cloud server to the smartphone, and then to the IVI via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB. Apps can be customized for look and feel and delivered using HTML5 or as phone-native apps, which keeps the on-board hardware lean while providing full support for a responsive display and secure cloud management.
For now, the only practical strategy that OEMs can adopt is to remain flexible, and platforms such as WEBLINK support that flexibility. Consumers will continue to adopt the mobile platforms they prefer, which means that automakers won’t be able to agree on a common development standard. WEBLINK gives them the freedom to choose not to choose.
What other difficulties do you think OEMs face in an iOS and Android universe?