At the recent Apple Special Event one of the more exciting announcements centered on Apple's CarPlay technology, an embedded extension to the iOS platform baked into the dashboard of over 40 new 2015 cars. Apple CEO Tim Cook shared that "every major car brand has committed to delivering CarPlay" and indeed he'd be right except for one notable exception: Toyota.
While the CarPlay news was exciting, Google's competing product Android Auto is close behind with a rapidly growing list of car makers who have pledged to support both platforms. Once again, except for Toyota. In fact, Toyota is a curious standout as the only car company refusing to support Apple or Google integration, a fact confirmed by a New York Times Article, where John Hanson, National manager of Toyota's advanced technology communications said Toyota had "no plans to adopt Android Auto or CarPlay."
Does Toyota somehow believe it can engineer an end-to-end data/service/entertainment/social/mobile/information platform that is better than iOS and Android? Can they somehow convince consumers to give up all the networked lifestyle-centric data and services they carry in their pocket in favor of a tiny walled garden in their dashboard? Seriously? How 90s of them.
The challenges go far beyond the basic functions of a map or Bluetooth phone connection, the automotive interface is just the tip of an expanding iceberg of cloud services, data integration, app developer ecosystems as well as all the other enabling functionality and creative innovation empowering a mobile operating system--this is ultimately what Toyota will NEVER be able to reproduce. Samsung hasn't built traction for a proprietary OS or app development ecosystem especially with their support for MirrorLink an open standards based competing automotive solution, Microsoft can't get ecosystem traction and Blackberry who's powered automotive OS platforms for years will never achieve the holistic scope of services needed to compete with Apple and Google, but somehow Toyota will? <laughing at the sheer hubris!> Nope! Ain't going to happen.
Perhaps Toyota's plan involves device syncing? Right. Remember back when we all had to constantly (try to) sync our devices to different platforms? That worked. But even sync requires some degree of device integration and even if Toyota could somehow magically sync all our static data (is there such a thing as static data anymore?) what about real time processes like voice integration between car-centric systems and external control for TXT messages, and email--even Google Now and Siri barely function at voice recognition. Then there are the additional wireless carrier device fees, privacy, security, malware threats, and ongoing device support for services like Audible or Pandora to solve. Without 100% integration, our attention will continue to be split between our dashboard and our device which will remain a dangerous recipe for disaster, at least inside a Toyota.
So why has Toyota stalled out on the information superhighway? Money. The auto industry is a low margin business compared to big-data and consumer data is valuable! Toyota is hoping for an ongoing revenue stream for every driver. Cha-ching! If you're driving by a restaurant, that restaurant would gladly pay a bounty for every driver who responds to a geo-targeted ad. Coupons for tires? Loyalty programs for gas? Will you need to pay Toyota for real time traffic data rather than using a free App like Waze on your mobile device?
Consumer revenue is the driving force behind the battle for your dashboard, just like for your cable TV, PC and every other screen in your life designed to suck in your data and sell that data to the highest bidder. You're being tracked everywhere you go in cyberspace, now you can be tracked everywhere you go--period. What are your driving stats worth to your insurance company?
It's an interesting strategic reversal for Toyota who made their brand synonymous with technology and innovation which allowed Toyota to blow past the old guard like GM to become the biggest car company in the world. Has Toyota jumped the shark? Will Apple and Google get into the car business and replace Toyota, at least as innovators?
As someone driving a second Prius, I say lets bring back Toyota's old slogan: "You asked for it! You got it!." I'm asking for it, in fact we're all asking for it.