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Now it’s Microsoft v Apple in your car

The decades-old battle for computing supremacy between  Microsoft and  Apple is about to shift from your desktop to your  dashboard.

The car is the latest battleground for the two tribes to  stake a claim  for the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers, with  carmakers being  forced to take sides in a bid to try to pick which will  become the  must-have voice recognition technology.

It’s like Blu-Ray versus HD DVD all over again – or VHS  versus Beta, if  you’re old enough to remember it. It’s worth  remembering, too, that  Microsoft is currently trying to crash Apple’s  party elsewhere by  bringing out its own smartphone to take on the  phenomenally popular  iPhone.

It turns out that talk isn’t cheap, with both computing  giants spending  up big to try to gain traction and widespread  acceptance in an  environment in which neither has previously been a  player.

In one corner of the fight for in-car supremacy is Apple,  which has  signed up the likes of Toyota, GM (which owns Holden),  Mercedes-Benz,  BMW, Audi, Chrysler, Honda, Jaguar and Land Rover to its  team.

In the other corner is Microsoft, bolstered by the small but potent trio of Ford, Hyundai and Kia. Apple this week announced it would make its “Siri” voice recognition  system available to its nine manufacturers, incorporating the technology  utilised in the iPhone4S.

A steering wheel-mounted button is expected to operate  the system that  will be able to control most non-driving functions such  as audio, phone,  ventilation, navigation and displays.

It is expected to be able to understand and react to  natural speech,  rather than a limited number of staccato commands that  many current  systems require. It will also be calibrated to work in  spite of  background interference such as engine and tyre noise, and  windscreen  wiper operation.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been working on its own version  of voice  recognition software. Ford already has voice recognition  embedded in  many of its current models and also worked with Microsoft to develop  Sync, an all-in-one car control systemfitted primarily to cars in the US  but coming to Australia soon.

The latest generation of Sync was plagued with problems  on its release  early last yearbut is now selling well in the US, albeit  still lacking  the hype and must-have buzz that Apple manages to  generate for its suite  of products.

    Microsoft has another string to its bow that Apple  doesn’t, however,  with significant experience in gesture control via  its Xbox Kinect  gaming system.

But with the push towards voice control driven by a  desire to keep the  driver’s hands on the steering wheel and attention  focused on the road,  it’s not yet known how gesture control might  translate to performing  in-car functions.

Forbes magazine speculates that Ford’s deal with  Microsoft precludes it  from talking with Apple, and that Ford may have  deliberately chosen to  tread a different path to most of its direct  rivals – such as Toyota and  GM – in a bid to create a point of  difference for itself.

RING the BELL. It’s time for Round one of Voice Wars.

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AXM AXM (5 Posts)

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