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Will Audi Make a Google Announcement at CES and Does It Matter?

by Roger Lanctot | Jan 03, 2014

About a week ago I posted a blog debunking a report that Google would announce an automotive consortium at CES (http://tinyurl.com/m5hzrha - Rumors of Android Consortium at CES Greatly Exaggerated) and further asserting that Google would not even be attending the event. Since that post, multiple report have averred that Audi will announce its plans to deploy Android in its cars.

First, Google will have a room for meetings in the South Hall at CES.  Second, there are rumors afoot of an Open Android Alliance comprising the likes of Audi, GM, Hyundai and, maybe, Honda, among others with plans for Android implementation.  Third, it does matter a little bit.

As for Audi implementing Android - at some future date - this is hardly a big deal.  Hyundai beat Audi to the punch in announcing its plans.  The roster of competing car makers adopting Android is growing by the day - mainly because Android offers the prospect of much more rapid development and deployment of new applications thanks to the massive and growing population of developers and Android's increasing dominance in the handset space:  http://tinyurl.com/obgdyy2 Android Captures Record 81% Share of Global Smartphone Shipments in Q3 2013.

In addition, Audi's preference for real-time OS provider QNX means it may be better positioned than most car makers to implement Android.  QNX and Android already have been shown to play well together.  (It doesn't hurt that Audi is using nVidia Tegra processors in many of its cars given Android's resource demands.) The adoption of Android by a growing roster of car makers is not good news, on the other hand, for Microsoft and a host of legacy OS providers.  And even the twin initiatives for Linux adoption in cars - the GenIVI Alliance and The Linux Foundation's Automotive Grade Linux - will suffer from the loss of developer focus.  Then, again, Android itself is based on Linux - so maybe Linux is the winner.

The rapid adoption of Android is a bit embarrassing to the two existing Linux initiatives, both of which are intended to reduce development time and cost for car makers and their suppliers.  Expectations are that developing in and for Android will be far faster and less expensive.

The shift to Android does reflect the growing influence of mobile on the automotive market.  And this suggests that the automotive industry will continue to take its cues from mobile as software continues to grow in importance in cars and as a proportion of the cost of in-vehicle systems.

As for the potential for a consortium, I hope any members of a Google-led consortium are good listeners, because that's what they are most likely to be doing - listening to Google's terms of engagement.  Sign here.  The single biggest point of impact of putting Android into cars is the immediate need for software update capabilities to support that frequently changing OS.  If for no other reason than the need for software updates, Android's introduction into cars represents a key turning point for vehicle connectivity.  Cue Billy Ocean:  "Get outta my dreams etc...."

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