Microsoft and Toyota just announced a new partnership today that aims to create a platform for Toyota’s next-generation telematics services on top of Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing platform. The first cars that will profit from this will be Toyota’s electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, which will get some of these services starting in 2012. Toyota hopes to roll this new system out globally by 2015. The two companies aim to use this system to bring “digital information services to Toyota automotive customers,” though that’s the extend of details they have released so far. Given that Microsoft is retooling its Hohm service to focus on electric-vehicle charging, chances are that it will become part of this new initiative in some form.
While there will surely be plenty of “blue screen of death” jokes about this partnership, the reality is that Microsoft’s embedded systems for cars have been powering Ford’s SYNC platform for years now, so Microsoft has quite some experience in this area.
As I’ve noted before, we are quickly moving to a future where all of our cars will be connected to the Internet 24/7. Virtually every major car manufacturer today is working on integrating on-board wireless modules for IP-based telematics services in their next generation of cars – a move that is driven greatly by the adoption of electric vehicles.
Microsoft and Toyota will provide more details about their partnership during a press conference at 1pm PT today and we will update this post with more information at that time.
Update: Here are some of the comments from the press conference:
According to Steve Ballmer, this partnerships takes Microsoft to the next frontier in mobility and will allow it to lead in the development of apps and services in this market. Toyota’s president Akio Toyoda, his company has been working with Microsoft for a long time, so working with the company on this new project now makes a lot of sense for Toyota. The two companies, too, share a lot of DNA that makes him “excited to see what the two can do through this partnership.”
Asked about why Toyota is starting this service with plug-in hybrids and electric cars, Toyoda noted that connecting these cars to the Internet allows his company to make smarter use of electricity and provide his customers with the services they expect.
Adding to this, Ballmer noted that Microsoft aims to “shoot ahead of where the customer is” and that Microsoft aims to provide a complete platform that will allow car manufacturers and their partners to develop applications that can be delivered from the cloud. He also stressed that this system is different from Ford’s SYNC, which, according to him, is less of a platform but more of a device in the car.
As for pricing, Toyoda did not have any concrete announcements yet.