Three weeks after the dramatic announcement from Nokia of its partnership with Microsoft and a shift to Windows Phone 7 as the preferred OS platform for its mobile phone business, kinder gentler thoughts in the marketplace regarding the prospects for the partnership are beginning to prevail. Having regrouped to put its own spin on recent events the head of Nokia’s automotive team recently pointed out the advantages of the Microsoft partnership in support of Terminal Mode and ongoing activity within the Qt developer community in support of both MeeGo and Symbian.
While it is true MeeGo has been significantly de-emphasized and Symbian will be phased out – after 150M more Symbian phones are shipped – Nokia Navteq remains an active player in the automotive marketplace focusing on opportunities for mobile phone connectivity and navigation. Post-partnership the combined organizations, while separate, represent a force to be reckoned with. The powerful search platform of Bing along with Navteq’s maps and Ovi’s marketplace represent a triple threat in a market where mobile advertising and mobile commerce are rapidly emerging around the world in cars and on devices.
The challenges facing the Microsoft-Nokia Navteq partnership are significant. The Windows Phone 7 platform is just four months into a slow start in the market and Microsoft has not defined a clear synergistic connection between Windows Phone 7 and Windows Embedded for Automotive 7. Microsoft can point to several successful mobile phone connectivity partnerships in the automotive market – such as Fiat, Kia and Ford – but most of these are built around different versions of Windows Auto or Windows CE.
Microsoft can also point to head unit partnerships with Mitsubishi Electric, Clarion and Alpine in support of Mercedes and Nissan. In fact, Alpine and Clarion have already endorsed and adopted terminal mode for enabling smart phone connectivity to access maps, music and for enabling map-based safety applications. While no one in the industry expects Apple to endorse and deploy terminal mode connectivity, makers of Android-based handsets and RIM may find it prudent to make terminal mode technology available.
Helping to make terminal mode connectivity more attractive, Nokia Navteq is stepping up its Ovi Marketplace game adding search now powered by Bing along with Navteq’s mapping, graphics, turn-by-turn navigation, geo-coding and reverse geo-coding to facilitate local commerce opportunities around the world. Created in conjunction with the CE4A industry consortium, terminal mode has been demonstrated by Volkswagen engineers – reflecting the company’s strong ties to German car makers. Nokia is looking to build on its Japan market inroads with a (now cancelled) Terminal Mode Summit in Tokyo late in March where the official Terminal Mode trademark will be launched (http://www.terminalmode.org/en/Events/registration) along with release 1.1 and a future release roadmap.
Almost lost in the Microsoft Nokia Navteq announcement was the impact on the Qt developer community and the de-emphasis of MeeGo. Qt and MeeGo continue to go hand and hand in the open source developer world and MeeGo continues to boast support from Intel and the now-fairly-large GenIVI Alliance (which will be gathering in Dublin in May). As car makers look to deploy application stores to support embedded solutions expect the GenIVI Alliance to strongly advocate for MeeGo as the ideal OS platform choice.
MeeGo stacks up as a strong alternative to Android or iOS for in-vehicle app stores. While Windows Embedded for Automotive and QNX are candidates, MeeGo’s candidacy is made stronger for being a cross-carmaker open development platform. And Qt is something of a wild card for MeeGo as a source of developer support.
Support for MeeGo has been years in the making. The Microsoft-Nokia announcement was not greeted warmly by Intel executives and received with some dismay by GenIVI members. Intel eventually announced its intentions to forge ahead undaunted in multiple device markets – including automotive. A week after the announcement, the MeeGo element of the announcement has been relegated to a sidelight with no impact on MeeGo’s or GenIVI’s longterm objectives.
In the end, Microsoft and Nokia Navteq are in position to have a significant influence over automotive infotainment systems, mobile device integration and in vehicle content/service/application delivery and mobile commerce. Now it is up to the two organizations to prove out the on-paper value proposition in the marketplace.
- Terminal Mode at Forefront of Connectivity, Competition Closing in - Insight - Roger C. Lanctot - Automotive Multimedia & Communications Service