Alliance Targets Telematics

Microsoft partners with Accenture to get back into automotive field; providing end-to-end services.

Microsoft Corp. last week tried to re-establish its presence in the budding automotive telematics field by partnering with Accenture Ltd. in a broad initiative aimed at providing end-to-end telematics services.

The initiative calls for Accenture to provide the integration services for a variety of telematics applications based on various Microsoft "building block" technologies, such as Windows CE for automotive as well as applicable .Net products and services, according to Gonzalo Bustillos, business development and marketing director for Microsofts automotive business unit, in Redmond, Wash.

Accentures services will be provided out of its Accenture Services Bureau for Automotive Telematics, formed about a year ago.

The idea behind the alliance is to put together a series of services, along with a network of various partners, to move the industry beyond the initial OnStar Corp. types of telematics services for drivers, according to Bustillos. Microsoft and Accenture envision a variety of mobile services to help create a "connected lifestyle" for drivers.

The Accenture alliance isnt the first Microsoft partnership in the automotive telematics space, however, said Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at GartnerG2, a research service of Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif.

"Microsoft had a disappointing initiative with Clarion [Corp. of America] that never really took off. The vehicle is the last environment they havent been able to penetrate," Koslowski said.

While Accenture isnt exactly a household name in the telematics industry, the professional services company has been in the space for about five years, according to Umar Riaz, global managing partner for telematics with Accentures automotive industry group in New York. "Accenture is working with several automakers to help define and implement telematics," he said. Riaz declined to name those clients.

As for the two companies existing joint venture, Avanade Inc., Riaz said that company "is deeply skilled in software development based on Microsoft technologies. [This] alliance with Microsoft covers much more than software development. Therefore, we envision that Avanade will participate whenever software development is required, but our offering is much broader."

To execute on the alliances goal of providing end-to-end telematics services, the two will tap into a network of businesses to provide a range of applications and services. Outside of MSN, the two would not reveal the other members of the network.

To provide all the elements necessary, other third-party service providers, application developers, hardware providers and wireless carriers must participate. "We will announce other members over the next several months," Bustillos said.