Apple sees cars as key driver for sales

 

APPLE IS turning to the car market to help drive adoption of its mobile products.

The company’s new in-house Maps service, which was unveiled on Monday, along with free turn-by-turn navigation feature and real-time traffic updates converts the iPhone into a valuable navigation device – one of the most popular features on Google’s Android devices.

Team that with the new “Eyes Free” feature – where drivers talk to Apple’s voice-enabled personal assistant Siri with the tap of a button on steering wheels – and analysts say the iPhone has the potential to disrupt the car electronics and navigation market.

Using smartphones for directions and music is not new. In-car navigation systems have been on a steady decline as more and more drivers prefer to use the mapping service in smartphones, particularly Google maps.

Apple’s move to lend its technology might to connect the car to its iPhone in an easy-to-use manner could give a big boost to the adoption of Siri and further entice consumers deeper into its app ecosystem. It makes iPhones more valuable to the user, said Mark Boyadjis, infotainment analyst with IHS Automotive.

“To be able to access it hands-free and eyes-free in the car will be an asset and will enable the Apple device to be continually more relevant in the car,” he said. “This is an important movement forward.”

The market for so-called car infotainment technology – everything from navigation and audio systems to screens to chips – is sizable. Revenue this year is projected to surge to $33.5 billion, and growth will be even stronger in the next four years, ranging from 4.7 per cent to 6.4 per cent, according to IHS iSuppli.

Already, nine car makers – including Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes and Toyota – have signed up to build-in Apple’s Siri button on the steering wheel or dashboard in the next 12 months. The button will allow drivers to access their iPhones to call people, play music, hear and dictate text messages, ask for directions, find calendar information and more.

But while Apple’s move is a serious threat, both carmakers and analysts said it does not spell the end for in-car navigation and entertainment systems.

Carmakers will be loathe to give up complete control of in-car internet access to phone makers, given they are worried and liable for driver distraction, analysts said.

Also, the embedded system suppliers have been working to diversify with consumers increasingly opting for free or cheap navigation software. Audi, which is working with Apple, sees Siri on the steering wheel as an experiment. “We are working with them to see how it would work, but we don’t have anything concrete yet to report,” Audi spokesman Brad Stertz said.

GM will be offering the service initially in its entry level vehicles after having found that 70 per cent of all new-car buyers want some form of connectivity in their vehicles.

GM also has a smartphone app called GoGo Link – for $50 – made by South Korean firm EnGIS Technology that connects any smartphone navigation system onto the car’s dashboard screen, providing internet connectivity to the car.

NEW SLIMMED-DOWN MACBOOK PROAPPLE TAKES ON WINDOWS ULTRABOOKS

Apple tweaked several features in its mobile operating system on Monday, enhancing its ecosystem and bolstering its arsenal as it tries to keep its hardware ahead of competition.

In addition to the latest version of its mobile phone software iOS6, which brings Siri to the iPad and adds new features such as deeper Facebook integration and new application Passbook that organises a user's electronic tickets and coupons, Apple also unveiled a new slimmed-down MacBook Pro. The new device comes with a high-end Retina display, taking on Windows Ultrabooks before many of the devices hit the shelves. Apple also updated its current Mac line-up including the MacBook Air.

Marketing chief Phil Schiller outlined how the redesigned MacBook Air notebooks would be slightly cheaper than their predecessors, but would come with quicker Intel processors.

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