Microsoft launches a new cloud platform for connected cars

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Microsoft isn’t building its own connected car — but it is launching a new Azure-based cloud platform for car manufacturers that want to use the cloud to power their own connected-car services. The new Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform will go live as a public preview later this year.

“This is not an in-car operating system or a ‘finished product’,” Microsoft’s EVP for business development Peggy Johnson writes in today’s announcement. “It’s a living, agile platform that starts with the cloud as the foundation and aims to address five core scenarios that our partners have told us are key priorities: predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and help building autonomous driving capabilities.”

Microsoft also announced that it is partnering with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to bring the new connected-car services to Renault-Nissan’s next-gen connected vehicles. The two companies were already working together on other projects before this, so it’s maybe no surprise that Renault-Nissan is Microsoft’s first partner.

Microsoft is also working with BMW to develop that company’s BMW Connected platform on top of Azure. BWM and Nissan also showed in-car integrations with Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant at CES this year, so your future car could potentially use Cortana to power its voice-enabled services. For the time being, though, it looks like these are still experiments.

Over the last year or so, Microsoft has often talked about its aim to bring “intelligence” to as many of its services as possible. It has also recently opened up Cortana to third-party developers, so bringing it to its connected car platform is a logical next step (and we’re seeing Amazon doing the same thing with Alexa, too).

Johnson also used today’s announcement to take a thinly veiled swipe at Google/Alphabet, which spun out its self-driving car unit a few weeks ago. “As you may have gathered, Microsoft is not building its own connected car,” she writes. “Instead, we want to help automakers create connected car solutions that fit seamlessly with their brands, address their customers’ unique needs, competitively differentiate their products and generate new and sustainable revenue streams.”

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