Detailed system and semiconductor demand analysis for in-vehicle infotainment, telematics and vehicle-device connectivity features.

January 22, 2010 22:01 rlanctot

No, not really. But it seems as if that headline could be written any day now. Apple’s influence inside the car has become as pervasive as Google’s influence outside it. Apple’s iPods and iPhones have fundamentally altered the automotive audio experience and are speeding the demise of the in-car CD player.


The electronics industry may be abuzz regarding the impending arrival of the Apple “iSlate” tablet computer, but auto makers and their suppliers are wrestling every day with the impact of hundreds of millions of iPods and millions of iPhones. Even telecommunications companies have felt Apple’s touch, causing them to re-evaluate flat rate data plans as iPhone users tune in to Internet radio and streaming video applications en masse.


But Apple’s influence began 6-7 years ago. Apple’s iPods arrived on the market around the same time aftermarket companies were toying with the idea of removable and dockable storage drives in cars. Companies from Seagate to Kenwood, Phatnoise and Rosen Entertainment, among others, dabbled in this area to the extent of bringing products into the marketplace only to discover that the iPod had become the de facto portable storage device for in-vehicle use.


A similar reality is unfolding today as car makers seek to bring Internet access into the car via embedded modules, while iPhone users are bringing Internet applications to the car via their iPhones. Today, iPhone users can access Internet radio, podcasts, navigation and location-related applications all from their smartphones. In fact, many car makers provide proprietary Apple connectors with their new cars. (The salesman who sold me my car last year provided these connectors - which are now jammed into my console for storage - even though I use a Blackberry.)


We have Apple to thank/blame for the proliferation of AUX IN and USB connectors in cars and, soon, we may have Apple to thank/blame for the demise of the automotive CD drive. For now, CDs persist out of convenience, low cost and wide consumer acceptance. But retail sales are in freefall even as downloads continue to gain, particularly, of course, for iTunes. When it comes to low cost, a properly connected iPhone delivers as much value as the average multifunction head unit – and more.


The latest iPhone vehicle connectivity developments revolve around transferring control of the device to the in-vehicle HMI. Most Tier Ones have mastered this task enabling steering wheel and other controls to manage iPhone functions. The next step in the works is to transfer the images displayed on the iPhone screen to the center stack display, if there is one. But the convergence of Apple devices and automobiles will continue especially as the installed base of devices continues to grow.


That installed base fuels a massive aftermarket. Apple’s presence in the mobile electronics industry was never more obvious than at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month where dozens of companies showed devices for connecting or mounting Apple products in cars. The Apple automotive aftermarket alone is probably bigger than the rest of the automotive aftermarket combined - roughly speaking.


Rest assured that OEMs and their suppliers are laboring furiously to get out in front of Apple’s next move that may influence the car buying public. Maybe the iSlate will alter the automotive aftermarket in some fundamental way. Is an Apple head unit next? Not likely. Not now, after Apple has forever altered the in-car audio experience. For the foreseeable future, every head unit maker will have to make a pit stop in Cupertino before bringing their next product to market.


January 15, 2010 10:01 rlanctot
Denso privately showed an Internet connectivity platform called Blue Harmony at the Detroit Auto Show this week. Despite its name which suggests an emphasis on Bluetooth, Blue Harmony is actually built around a 3G cellular connection enhanced with Wi-Fi for internal and external communication and Bluetooth. It is designed as a center stack solution with full-size, touch-screen display for navigation and other functions. The announcement shows Denso offering its own all-purpose alternative to similar solutions from Continental and Visteon. Blue Harmony's introduction reflects the ongoing efforts being made by Tier One suppliers to provide for smartphone integration and application downloads. Blue Harmony is designed to function with a variety of hardware and software configurations. The positioning of the system is clearly targeted at higher end applications as opposed to simple Bluetooth connectivity offerings such as Ford's Sync. Denso is being specific about the broad range of functionality enabled by the Blue Harmony system, but is being deliberately ambiguous about specific component partners and HMI, leaving these choices to potential customers. The stated objective of Blue Harmony is to enable connected consumer applications including access to music, news and traffic information while enabling safe implementation of social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter. Flexibility and customizability are critical elements of the system including the ability to download applications capable of enabling services such as Pandora Internet radio. OEMs will be able to target different consumer segments with customized user interfaces or different application portfolios. Blue Harmony will also deploy a wide range of voice-enabled applications such as news readers or messaging. And in addition to Wi-Fi technology, the system also incorporates vehicle-to-vehicle communication capability.

January 13, 2010 10:01 rlanctot
Motorola brought an impressive new connected portable navigation device to the Consumer Electronics Show last week. It is the first unit built around Airbiquity's in-band modem technology which enables a variety of first-time connectivity features on a PND. And the user interface offers some unique elements worthy of emulation by competitors as well. In the end, however, despite having conquered technology challenges in bringing this innovative device to market, the greatest challenge facing Motorola when the product becomes available later this year, will be gaining shelfspace position at retail in a consolidating segment. The first-time list of features on the Motonav TN700 includes a wide-screen 5.1" display, Bing411 voice-enabled business search, Caller ID for announcing in-bound callers, a scrolling list of POIs that appears on the left hand side of the screen as they are passed by the device, speed camera alerts from Cobra (a capability beginning to show up on other new PNDs), and direct entry of addresses (ie. street number, name, etc.). The Airbiquity in-band modem enables the inclusion of a bundle of services called MotoExtras - free for the first 3 months - including weather, gas prices, flight status, etc. Google Search is also accessible for locating POIs. Traffic data is provided by Navteq free for the life of the device as part of's ad-supported business model. The price of the device has not yet been set, but will likely be in the mid- to high-end range. The speed camera data and MotoExtras will be subject to annual subscription and bundling offers both yet to be determined. The real challenge for Motorola, though, will be gaining a foothold in retail stores where Garmin and TomTom have been adding SKUs to their assortments pushing aside second and third tier brands. According to one industry assessment, the two brands account for 63% of all retail shelfspace, up from 55% a year ago. Motorola currently has 1.8% share in the U.S. Further complicating Motorola's retail ambitions is the low-end orientation of the PND market, with as much as 75%-80% of sales coming from entry-level models, the expected re-emergence of Magellan and Mio later this spring, and Best Buy's ongoing ambitions in the connected PND segment. Related content: Connected PND Database: Automotive and Portable Navigation Forecast:

January 12, 2010 20:01 mfitzgerald
The unspoken theme to the 2010 Consumer Telematics Show held one day prior to CES in Las Vegas was HMI’s role in the safe interaction between the driver of the vehicle and the various portable and embedded electronics prevalent in today’s vehicles.  When polled, the vast majority of the 250+ attendees of the telematics conference indicated that driver distraction is a major concern. There is widespread legislation across international markets governing the safe operation of cellular phones while driving. Safety concerns and legislation over the next 2-3 years is also expected to cover music players/iPods, PND and smartphone use in the vehicle. There is also strong legislator interest and research into driver distraction issues surrounding driver use of multiple multimedia and automotive features within the vehicle.
  • Ray LaHood, United States Secretary of Transportation has called distracted driving a “deadly epidemic” and NHTSA has stated that in 2008, 6,000 deaths and 500,000+ injuries were caused by distracted driving. Despite increasing demand for HMI innovation there are significant cost related challenges that will impact availability, pricing and competitive positioning between HMI products and between car makers. Achieving scale economies across vehicle segments and leveraging from markets and products outside the vehicle will impact automotive product development. Car makers have differing strategies towards `open' versus proprietary solutions for multimedia and communications solutions including HMI. For example, Ford and Fiat are working with Microsoft, whereas Toyota is considering taking a proprietary route to operating system (OS) platform development.
  • The most notable progress towards `open' standards, platforms and APIs - and hence cost reduction - has been made by voice technology based automotive products.
As consumers multimedia usability experience improves rapidly on portable devices and in the home, there are increasing opportunities for automotive players to learn and leverage this progress for improvements in the multimedia and communications experience in the vehicle.
  • There is a significant and growing gap between multimedia experience on devices and in the home versus automotive products.
  • There is rapid growth in consumer adoption, functionality and user experience for: iPods; iPhones and smartphones; PNDs; and multifeatured devices.
  • Display designs and location, voice technology, resistive touch, capacitive touch, other haptic technologies, other HMI technologies, improved intuitive menu structures, and user interface design all offer opportunities for automotive product improvement and competitive differentiation.  (Please refer to Strategy Analytics Blogs concerning the KIA UVO and Ford SYNC announcements at CES 2010)
Strategy Analytics forecasts strong growth for automotive voice technology and touch screen displays are set to reach $1.2 billion and $1.7 billion respectively in 2015. Strategy Analytics expects total revenues generated from voice recognition systems to increase from $284M in 2007 to $1,195M in 2015 representing a CAGR of 20% p.a. over the forecast period. Strategy Analytics expects total revenues from touch screen displays to increase from $660M in 2007 to $1,7102M in 2015 representing a CAGR of 13% p.a. over the forecast period (Exhibit 1.3).
  • "Total" is the summation of demand from the major vehicle producing regions of NAFTA, Japan, Europe (West and East), Russia, South Korea, China and India.
For more information on vehicle HMI, please see the following Strategy Analytics report “Automotive HMI: Voice Technology and Touch Screens Have Significant Lead”:

January 8, 2010 15:01 cwebber

Ford is definitely on a roll with its class-leading Sync product.  Ford Sync equipped vehicle sales surpassed 1 million units in May 2009.  With availability on 14 MY2010 Ford North American models, and the announcement at CES this week of its app. enhanced next-generation product, it is well on its way to the 2 million unit sales mark later this year. - (These vehicle platforms will represent around 85% of Ford North American production in 2010.) Semiconductor vendor Freescale is particularly enjoying the Sync's success as it has the highest value share of the semiconductor content for the current Sync product, supplying the core and interface processing capability of the system.  At CES Freescale announced that one of its latest ARM-based i.MX multimedia applications processors and the S12 CAN gateway microcontroller will power the next-generation Sync product. Freescale powers next-generation Sync: According to Strategy Analytics previous analysis Freescale is the #1 global automotive segment processor vendor, and we expect this to be confirmed again in our next round of market share analysis of vendor revenues in 2010.  Automotive Semiconductor 2008 Market Shares: The Sync's continued popularity in North America, and Ford's plans to roll the system out in Europe and Asia-Pac, will enhance Freescale's position in the global automotive multimedia applications processor market, an application segment which has been largely dominated by Japanese semiconductor vendors.

January 4, 2010 05:01 rlanctot

The marketing battle between traffic service providers will continue into 2010. The good news is that 2009 firmly established the value of traffic data. The turning point came with the introduction of multiple mobile phone navigation solutions, most of which arrived through the aegis of the application store model pioneered by Apple. But new, unusual and creative solutions will arrive in 2010 and change the existing balance of power.


Users of these new navigation systems and the developers quickly discovered that reliable traffic information was the real killer app that mobile users were seeking. In the process they discovered that to deliver reliable travel times they needed a wide variety of traffic data including real-time, historical, predictive and incident data. Unfortunately, one of the key sources of traffic data – radio and television stations with cameras, ‘copters and spotters to report incident information – have suffered in the current downturn. In fact, there are anecdotal indications that radio stations are dropping traffic reporting. A model for delivering nationwide incident data that was previously fueled by advertising and sponsorships is becoming frayed at the edges as TV and radio advertising suffer., ClearChannel and Westwood One/SmartRoute, among others, are all seeking new funding, new business models or new owners in a bid to preserve or enhance their market positions. In the meantime, Google has barged into the market with its own traffic data raising questions over the viability of incumbent players. Google’s entry into any market raises these questions, although the reliability or robustness of Google’s traffic solution has yet to be proven. Inrix, on the other hand, has not based its model on sponsorships or advertising and, as a result, has for the most part avoided the negative impact of the downturn in advertising activity. But with Google getting into the traffic data aggregation and algorithm business, no traffic data supplier is safe including Microsoft's ClearFlow.


Of more immediate concern than Google entering the traffic market is the changing role of mobile-phone based navigation. Google is a player here as well, but it has more company in the form of Networks in Motion and TeleNav and their carrier partners. (TelMap's efforts in Europe have been hindered by the fragmented nature of the market and the negative impact of roaming charges.) While companies such as Cellint, AirSage, and IntelliOne have been seeking to integrate cell-tower triangulation data for probe traffic inputs, expect the carriers to introduce GPS-based probe data in the new year – representing a key added-value advantage. GPS-based probe data derived from mobile phone handsets will not replace triangulated data, which will always represent the greatest volume of “anonymized” location data, but the GPS data is likely to be more timely and accurate, critical to traffic reporting and analysis. The GPS-based data will likely require opt in participation vs. the triangulated data which to date has been applied involuntarily.


Still, good probe data is almost worthless without incident data. Without incident data the system is unable to interpret slowed or stopped traffic – ie. is it weather, volume, construction, a fallen tree limb, an uphill grade? The battle for reliable traffic data will come down to good incident data. This means the industry will see vastly enhanced probe data in 2010, but the gap between reliable flow and reliable incident data will suddenly become much clearer.


Through all the enhancements to traffic reporting consumers have been expressing their interest in better and more timely information and, in particular, more real-time incident information. As an example, RDS-TMC is notorious for the 5-10-15-minute delays in incident reporting, sometimes worse. Drivers want to know what is happening in real time.


In 2010, drivers will begin to get real-time information. Whether that information comes from Twitter, TrafficTalk, Aha Mobile, Waze, TrafficLand or some other solution is not clear. What is clear is that drivers want to know BOTH what has happened in the past and what is happening now. But what they really want to know is what is happening right in front of them.


The solutions will come in 2010 from three key sources: mobile-phone-based crowd-sourced info, traffic cameras and, perhaps, vehicle-mounted cameras. The challenges to delivery include the creation of traffic reporting “crowds,” something TrafficTalk, Waze and Aha Mobile are working on; and camera input interpretation and delivery platforms. Developments in 2009 clearly indicated that drivers must spend less time looking away from the road to navigation interfaces. More information must be conveyed via voice.


Traffic information suppliers will still be looking at a combination of subscription-based and sponsored traffic information. Consumers have clearly indicated a willingness to pay for traffic data, both in Strategy Analytics surveys and in the combined 10 million subscribers to Networks in Motion, TeleNav and XM/Sirius traffic information.


The industry will see some outlandish innovations ranging from delivering traffic camera info to mobile phones to – in 2-3 years – aftermarket in-vehicle cameras to capture traffic incidents. Two things are clear. Better incident data is required and solutions are in the pipeline.

December 31, 2009 19:12 rlanctot
WIth thWith the latest tale of navigation devices gone bad (, one is forced to ask this question. How does one know if the maps (and navigation) on a particular device are any "good?" With more, not fewer, companies creating navigable maps, this question is more critical than ever. And the race to bring less expensive navigation devices and systems to the market has opened the door to alternative soutions. Maps used to be the sole domain of companies such as Navteq and Tele Atlas – and a few dozen other companies around the world – that actually drove and physically surveyed the roads at the ground level. These companies added layers of detail and higher degrees of accuracy as time progressed. These maps weren’t perfect and they still need regular updating, but they established a high enough expectation with consumers that millions of people were willing to buy navigation devices and faithfully follow them into, in some instances, into ponds and to incorrect destinations. Now, Google has gotten into the truck driving game along with companies such as Facet Technology. OpenSourceMaps (OSM) and CloudMade have introduced crowd-sourced maps as has Waze. GeoEye has brought satellite-sourced Google Earth to life. And Intermap is creating road data based on airplane flyovers. With the first OSM-based PND due in Germany in Q1, and Google decoupling from Tele Atlas in the U.S., and Audi showing Google Earth-enhanced navigation in the 2011 A8, is the value of road-driven maps being diminished? Device makers and consumers will soon be forced to decide for themselves what constitutes a good enough map. As 2009 fades into 2010 it is suddenly unclear whether Navteq and Tele Atlas will maintain their status as the gold standard for mapping or whether individual alternative mapping approaches or some combination will create a new industry standard. Navteq's recent agreement with Microsoft suggests the company will make a rigorous defense of its market position in pursuit of proliferating location-based market opportunities. Tele Atlas' ace in the hole remains the TomTom Home application with its community-based map correcting and updating. Hopefully 2010 will bring fewer tales of people driving into ponds.

December 31, 2009 18:12 rlanctot
Audi's announcement of an optional Google Earth-enabled navigation system for the 2011 A8 due in mid-2010 has raised a question for competitors: To 3G or NOT to 3G? Having just put a messy transition from analog to digital technology in the rearview mirror, the automotive industry is facing yet another key point of inflection between 2.5G, 3G and 4G wireless technologies for embedded telematics solutions. Several automakers have already taken some preliminary decisions leading down the 2.5G path for their future telematics platforms focusing on safety and security. The belief is that additional functionality can be handled via the customer’s smartphone – and that the primary function of automotive telematics remains automatic crash notification and, perhaps, navigation. Some OEMs are targeting the wider spectrum of location-based applications with their related revenue opportunities enabled by 3G technology. And QNX and Alcatel-Lucent have partnered to prepare the market for a 4G LTE future. It is worth noting that QNX is a strategic partner with Audi as is Elektrobit, both of whom are developing cloud-based, location-based solutions for cars. Big decisions await the industry in 2010. Car makers will want to avoid the cost of a 3G module. They will also want to avoid the cost of data plans, hoping to tag along on the customer's data plan via a physical or Bluetooth connection to the smartphone. This strategy will work in the short term, but Audi is one OEM pointing the way to a 3G future with its announcement of a Google Earth-enabled navigation system for the 2011 A8. Initially built around a GPRS/EDGE platform, the car maker has announced its intention to bring UMTS on board. This decision will put Audi into the telematics forefront where it can be expected to be joined by Mercedesand BMW. The key to success will be leveraging location-based technology to deliver a superior value proposition to the driver. With 3G, the full spectrum of content and services and related business models will be at the company's disposal and not dependent on the capabilities of the customer's smartphone or a flaky Bluetooth connection, though Bluetooth will have a role to play. Ford will have the sexiest solutions at next week's CES event in Vegas, but Audi has served notice that it is stepping into the telematics ring and will be a contender. By this time in 2010, the luxury segment may have a new technology leader.

December 26, 2009 18:12 rlanctot
The latest connected portable navigation device from Best Buy, the Insignia NS-CNV43, is both groundbreaking and disappointing. The device introduces Twitter posting of destinations – an industry first - and maintains the Google Search feature of the original Insignia connected PNDs, while adding other connected content services for weather, gas prices, and movie listings. But despite its virtues and advances some vital ingredients are still missing and in a head-to-head comparison to an embedded navigation system in a BMW, the sourced traffic data appears to be inferior to the Inrix-enabled ClearChannel Total Traffic Network data in the BMW. At $149.99 (list: $199.99), the feature rich NS-CNV43 makes a powerful value statement in a Best Buy department crowded with 20+ devices mainly from Garmin and TomTom and including units intended for hiking and boating. The device has haptic touch feedback and Bluetooth phone connectivity, unusual features in a relatively inexpensive PND. (Surprisingly, the device does not allow for voice dialing or voice destination entry, limiting the attraction of the Bluetooth.) (For details on other PNDs and connected PNDs: Improvements on the original connected PNDs from Best Buy, introduced more than a year ago, include an improved windshield mount and text-to-speech. (Nuance has replaced Loquendo.) The Google Search function, alone, is an attractive proposition, but the addition of other content services and Bluetooth make the device a standout. (The Lithium-ion battery included with the device is described as having a two-hour capacity, but in the tester’s experience was capable of lasting less than half an hour and gave repeated low battery warnings almost immediately after being disconnected.) The two biggest shortcoming in the new device relate to the routing software and traffic information – elements critical to its performance. From a routing standpoint, the device delivers the user to the anticipated destination in most cases. But while testing the device in Detroit recently, the NS-CNV43 appeared to fall victim to a Michigan left turn on a divided local highway, putting the user in an endless loop or “make a U-turn” instructions half a mile before reaching the destination. This failure was reminiscent of several similar malfunctions experienced with the original connected Insignia PNDs which are built around deCarta software. (The device also does not display the current speed limit, which is a popular, though-often inaccurate, PND feature) Just as important as routing acumen is the integration of traffic data. Reliable traffic data is critical to determining both arrival time and the quickest route. On two recent journeys the NS-CNV43 appeared to be outperformed by the embedded navigation system in the BMW, against which it was being tested. On a trip to FedEx Field for a Monday night football game working through a combination of rush-hour and pre-game traffic, the Insignia-branded device was unhelpful and appeared lost relative to the unerring guidance from the on-board system. Similarly, navigating rush-hour and holiday traffic to a dinner engagement, the BMW was able to find a back road, avoiding a local highway jam to which the Best Buy device appeared to be committed. Following the guidance of the BMW navigation, the tester arrived at the restaurant ahead of a second car that had a 10-minute head start. All in all, the connectivity of the Best Buy device is attractive and the Twitter function is fun, although probably only practical in limited circumstances. Of greater concern is the longer term cost of the device. The NS-CNV43 comes with a free three-month subscription to the Insignia Internet connected services – and includes the warning: “Insignia reserves the right, at it’s (sic) discretion, to limit excessive data usage on any device.” One of the attractions of the device is that its box promises: “On-demand connected services – no monthly fee required.” What this means is that when the free access to connected services expire they can be purchased on an a la carte, as needed-basis directly from the device. According to a CNET review, as few as three days of service can be purchased for $4.99 or as much as 12 months for $99, with various increments in between. In Summary The new device has improved TTS and an industry-first Twitter function along with Google Search, connected content, Bluetooth and data. The low $149.99 retail price is somewhat offset by the cost of on-demand subscription services that are more expensive than offerings from TomTom and Garmin. Best Buy is making progress, but has more work to do in refining its portable navigation offering and integration of data or the data itself appears to be inferior to ClearChannel Total Traffic Network data.

December 22, 2009 22:12 jcanali
As Strategy Analytics anticipated, the market for digital maps has quickly shifted in the wake of Google’s entrance into turn by turn navigation. In the contrast to Google’s recent announcement to pull away from Tele Atlas as its primary map supplier, Microsoft (MSFT) and Navteq have entered into a “new chapter” in their ongoing partnership in what has been deemed as “a true 'win- win' for both companies” as stated in a recent press release.  While by no means a merger, the implications of this partnership could prove to be extremely far reaching.  Microsoft and Navteq/Nokia have technologies which extend into computer software, computer operating systems, mobile software operating systems, search engines, mobile hardware, and automotive platforms as well as the wealth of location-based data owned by Navteq.   This may prove even more significant as Google has recently leaked its intention to expand into the mobile hardware market. The most immediate benefit will be the use of Microsoft technology to create 3-dimensional, street level maps, which MSFT calls Streetside, for its Bing Beta Maps.  As more PNDs become connected, the ability to house 2D/3D maps onboard while storing street level maps off board will be an important selling point and help to differentiate PNDs from mobile phone navigation.  Street view maps are a fun application, but lack the accuracy for reliable automotive navigation.  Developing a seamless way to switch from street views to more accurate 2D/3D maps will help PNDs to better differentiate themselves from smartphones as PNDs provide better automotive usability. The growth of the connected PND market and smartphone navigation solutions can be seen in Strategy Analytics’ recently updated database listed below: Portable Navigation Multi-Feature Device Specification Database In addition to achieving better quality maps, Navteq has strengthened its position by gaining greater access to consumer markets for smartphones and connected PNDs, and could benefit from Microsoft’s strong position in the automotive market, especially in terms of volume cars equipped with Ford SYNC or Fiat Blue&Me and a system that is currently in the works with Hyundai.  While Google is a company with massive resources and a proven ability to flawlessly execute plans, perhaps the strength of its position in automotive and LBS has been overstated by many in the industry. Garmin should benefit from its close relationship with Navteq, while Tele Atlas/TomTom needs to evaluate its future and ponder potential strategic partnerships of its own.   Although Tele Atlas/TomTom has said that it will continue to focus on accuracy and innovation, these words seem more like hollow executive speak than a signal that Tele Atlas/TomTom believes its business model is still functional.  TomTom’s recent decision to slash the price of its iPhone application in half, from $99 to only $49, seems to belie assurances that everything is alright at the Dutch Company. In terms of Microsoft, the partnership helps Bing better target the mobile and automotive search market that Google seeks to dominate.  Strategy Analytics recently detailed Google’s competitive position in the report:  Competitive Position Analysis of Google in the Automotive Market Google has not been shy about its wishes to dominate mobile and automotive search, in fact, at Navigation and Location 2009 in San Jose, CA, a representative from Google stated, “it is advertising, not navigation that we are after.”  This makes search a vital component for deriving revenues from LBS solutions.  Microsoft is prudently looking to bolster its position against Google’s rapid push into LBS by partnering with Nokia. As reported here, by Telematics Update, the new Bing Maps will include a free voice-enabled search application, allowing the driver to access maps, directions, and traffic without compromising the wheel of their car.  The hands free application will cue the driver will visual signs rather than audio responses, thus giving Microsoft a potentially more powerful value proposition to potential advertisers as well as a solution that drivers may prefer. Still, the battle for dominance in automotive and mobile phone search is just beginning and long battles often make for strange bedfellows.   Google’s decision to pursue mobile phone hardware is certainly going to upset the likes of Motorola, who were relying heavily on the success of Android based phones.   This comes on the heals of pulling away from Tele Atlas and offering free TbT on Android, a platform on which Garmin is building navigation-centric Nuvifones.  While Google’s slogan, “don’t be evil”, may continue to resonate with consumers, these moves may have engendered distrust with potential strategic partners.      With many major players have yet to weigh in including automotive OEMs, Google may be viewed as too ambitious for potential partnership.      Meanwhile, Apple, a darling of many consumers, has yet to fully weigh in, but has not ignored LBS quietly acquiring Placebase last July.