Applications

Microsoft Updates Windows for Cars

The latest version of Microsoft’s automotive operating system is on the market, the company has announced.

Windows Automotive 5.0, based on Microsoft’s embedded OS Windows CE 5.0, can render complex 3D graphics, such as those used in navigation systems, with its expanded virtual memory support.

“The bottom line is that Microsoft, with respect to its operating systems, is looking beyond the PC,” Joe Wilcox, senior analyst, Jupiter Media, told TechNewsWorld. “There’s a lot of opportunity around devices that you use with embedded chips. Autos would be one example.”

Custom Applications

The software platform can be used to build custom in-vehicle applications for such things as navigation, entertainment and communication systems, Microsoft said.

“With an automobile, you want to think where Microsoft could go and what it can leverage elsewhere,” Wilcox said. “For instance, it could offer a portable media center-like experience on a DVD system. For digital rights management, instead of plugging your iPod into you car, you get a subscription to Napster, download it to you car and listen to music that way. These are directions where I would expect Microsoft to go.”

The problem, however, is that lead times for auto manufacturers are long and the technology could be outdated before vehicles are in the showrooms. But that’s not the only hurdle.

“The real question is, are these computers in the vehicle a differentiator? Is it a reason for people to rush out and buy a new vehicle?” Wilcox said.

“The problem from high-tech vendors is they’re crazy about convergence. They love to converge features within a device. Take cell phones. All our surveys find that people buy phones for telephony, that other stuff is all secondary. Those things are nice to have, as long as they don’t take away from telephony. When people buy a car, they’re considering the look of the vehicle, the way it handles, the gas mileage. That other stuff is nice, but it’s secondary.”

Standards Support

The new version supports standards including Bluetooth, 802.11, UPnP, USB, XML and SOAP. Standardization is one area in which Microsoft could make a difference in the automotive market, Wilcox said.

“One thing that Microsoft could do, and I can’t say it’s going in this direction, is it could bring some standardization to the market,” he said. “That’s what it’s done in a lot of other markets. In automotive, the manufacturers all use different OSes and specialized equipment. If they standardize on one platform, then you might see some innovative add-ons.”

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