Remember the joke about how bad cars would be if Microsoft designed them? Well, stop laughing: The software giant has set its sights on the automotive industry, and although the company won't start designing cars anytime soon, it likely will have a lot to say about the electronics in your next vehicle. Today, Windows Automotive software is available in more than 20 car models from companies such as BMW, Citroen, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo. In 2 or 3 years, Microsoft hopes to see its next-generation automotive software, code-named TBox, available in all car models.
"We'd like to have one of our operating systems in every car," said Dick Brass, vice president of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit. "It's a lofty goal." It sure is: With more than 650 million cars in circulation and 50 million new vehicles produced every year, the size of the automotive market rivals that for desktop PC OSs. Today's cars include multiple electronic devices, including microprocessors. A growing number of cars also include advanced computerlike functionality, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPSs).
Microsoft's plans for the automobile's future are as far-reaching as its plans for desktop computing. TBox will allegedly tell drivers when they need an oil change, warn of upcoming traffic slowdowns, suggest alternative routes, and silently pay tolls, all using a hands-free, less distracting interface than the Windows Automotive software today's cars use.