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Forget TVs and watches, cars are the next big battleground for Apple and Google

Published Dec 30th, 2013 8:30PM EST
New car technology

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While everyone expects Google and Apple’s next big fight to be over watches or TVs, it increasingly looks like cars will be the next big tech battleground — as cars become more connected and intelligent, Apple and Google are striving to be at the center of the driving experience. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is set to announce a partnership with Audi at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next month to “develop in-car entertainment and information systems that are based on Google’s Android software.” Google will also announce joint efforts with other car and tech companies, including Nvidia, to integrate Android into various cars. Google wants to make Android the default operating system for the car, much as it has done for mobile devices.

Google has shown increased interest in cars in recent years. The company provides its mapping services to Audi, Toyota and Tesla, and in the past couple years, Google has been improving its own self-driving cars.

Apple has also shown interest in the car, announcing its iOS in the Car initiative this past June as part of iOS 7. When paired with an iOS device, iOS in the Car integrates the in-car display with Apple’s iOS ecosystem, from maps and music to Siri and messages.

While no cars currently use iOS in the Car, Apple expects that in 2014 nearly a dozen car makers to begin using it. It was not ready for iOS 7.0, but a recent beta of iOS 7.1 appears to include the functionality. That hasn’t prevented Honda from integrating Siri into its cars, with a Siri button in the steering wheel. With Siri, drivers can be read their text messages and make phone calls without touching their iPhone.

Cars are increasingly becoming more intelligent, and people expect their cars’ built-in displays to be as capable as their phones and tablets. With 80 million new cars sold every year, this is a potentially huge market for both Google and Apple. So far, auto makers have struggled to improve these built-in displays. In 2007, Ford introduced Sync with Microsoft, and while it has improved, most customers find it confusing.

In the future, GM and Audi hope to add 4G cellular chips to their cars. By 2015, GM plans on making all of its cars capable of making a wireless broadband connection.

Cars are also a battleground for chip makers such as Intel, Qualcomm, and Nvidia. Nvidia says that 4.5 million cars already use its chips, and that in five years more than 25 million more cars will be using its chips.