Apple, BlackBerry And Microsoft Now Fight For Your Vehicle's Ecosystem

Includes: AAPL, BBRY, MSFT
by: Quoth the Raven

The car is one of the spots in the personal electronic ecosystem that we all knew companies would be going after eventually. Pretty soon, the personal ecosystem - which now includes your TV, computer, phone, tablet, video games and watch - will expand. As those primary points of contact are locked up, expect companies to start going after the other secondary appliances you use - things like your coffee maker and your fridge. No, I'm not joking, it's likely just a matter of time before you're controlling whether you want crushed or cubed ice via your smartphone.

This was actually something I thought was going to happen years ago, when Bluetooth first became popular. I was surprised then that it wasn't used to implement a mainstream "hub" to control your house via laptop. Now, it's just a matter of time before everybody has a house like Bill Gates.

When I wrote - just yesterday - about Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tim Cook tipping his hand by acting abnormally braggadocio at the annual shareholders meeting - and that it likely meant there's new, cool stuff coming down the pipe for Apple - this is exactly what I was talking about.

I opened up this morning to find a couple of surprises:

1. That futures weren't down nearly as much as I thought they'd be.

2. Oh, yeah, and this headline:

For a while, I'd been expecting Apple to enter into vehicles, especially after it was alluded to several quarters ago. The company talked at length several times about getting iOS into cars, so it didn't come as extreme shock. iOS in vehicles makes a ton of sense, and it was a topic that I explored in my article about BlackBerry's (NASDAQ:BBRY) QNX replacing Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Sync in Ford models last week. I stated:

Strictly from a consumer standpoint, as someone that is constantly renting Ford Fusions when I travel, I'm semi-familiar with Sync. And, while I use it and it gets the job done, do I think there's a chance to make it sleeker, quicker, and altogether a bit more aesthetically cleaner? Yes. That could just be the developer in me, but there's certainly room for opportunities. Like everything Microsoft has tried to do for the first time, Sync was anything but a grand slam.

The CNBC article on Apple's app, called CarPlay which was published early Monday morning, reports:

"iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing.

Through use of the app, drivers will be able to make calls, use the Google Maps function, listen to music and access messages through use of voice or touch.

Users can control the application from the car's native interface or push and hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri - the voice activation software.

According to Apple, once a driver's iPhone is connected to a vehicle with CarPlay integration, Siri will enable drivers to access their contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails without using their hands. Drivers will be able to dictate responses to messages, or simply make a call.

With regards to my predictions about Apple having some tricks up its sleeve, I in no way think this is the meat and potatoes of what they have. I have no doubt that Apple is damn close to releasing more products. And, as Carl Quintanilla said on Twitter last night, "The longer they take to develop the iWatch, the happier I'm getting." The sentiment is that the products coming down the pipe are going to be representative of the Apple innovation of old. And I've often stated that if they do go down the road of the watch, it's likely to blow Samsung out of the water.

Back to CarPlay - while this news not a surprise to me, what is surprising is that this is an app, and not an embedding of the iOS actually in vehicles - which I what I thought was going to be the next step for Apple. That would involve serious partnerships with the type of cars I think Apple would want to be associated with - BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, etc. Apple is betting that CarPlay, which is going to start with companies like BMW and Volvo, will trickle into vehicles like Honda (NYSE:HMC) and Ford (NYSE:F) eventually.

It may not be a bad move either, allowing the app to basically be able to port itself through whatever OS your vehicle has embedded. Going the route of embedding the OS could potentially limit Apple's options, so this might not be a bad way of going about it. It opens up the playing field so that everyone can use it - kind of like WhatsApp or BlackBerry messenger now does by making itself available on all platforms.

And though it's no doubt that this is a step in the right direction for Apple, it should certainly come as a blip on the radar for those who are counting on BlackBerry to expand with QNX and Microsoft to expand through Sync. Be forewarned, you now have BlackBerry, Microsoft, and Apple competing for the digital media hub in your vehicle.

I'll be keeping a close eye on how these companies can potentially monetize this, and developments in the future. As such, I'm bullish on AAPL, BBRY, and MSFT for the long term; and currently am long only BBRY.

Disclosure: I am long BBRY. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.