Microsoft's connected car strategy took a new turn today when the Redmond, Wash. tech titan announced it had teamed with German automaker BMW to integrate its Skype for Business enterprise communications platform into the infotainment systems found in BMW 5 series vehicles.
The move builds on a previous partnership involving Open Mobility, a platform that uses Microsoft's cloud to power BMW Connected, a personalized suite of driver aids and services delivered by a mobile app. With the launch of its updated 5 series vehicles late last year, BMW became an early supporter of Microsoft's efforts to extend Office 365's communications and collaboration tools to cars using the Exchange software and cloud services platform.
Now, the companies want busy, BMW-owning executives to never miss another conference call or Skype meeting due to traffic jams.
During the BMW Innovation Days event in Chicago July 13, Microsoft and BMW said that some Skype for Business functionality is being added to iDrive, BMW's infotainment technology in an effort to improve collaboration and get drivers to stow their smartphones while they're behind the wheel.
In addition to making and taking Skype calls, drivers will be alerted to upcoming meetings or when meetings are rescheduled. The system can also prompt users to start scheduled meetings. Additionally, the integration will enable drivers to access their contacts, to-do lists and calendars.
"With BMW Connected we offer a wide range of digital services designed to help users with their daily mobility needs inside and outside of the car," commented Dieter May, senior vice president at Digital Products and Services, at BMW in prepared remarks. "We seek to continuously extend and enhance the customer experience with regard to all aspects of their mobility. The integration of productivity features in-car (like Exchange and Skype for Business) and personalized and contextual services will help customers with their day-to-day work and planning while they are on the road."
Skype for Business is coming first to newer BMW 5 series vehicles in the Germany, France and the U.K., with other regions to follow.
While BMW is an early supporter of bringing a little piece of Microsoft's business communications ecosystem into passenger cars, it's not the first. That distinction belongs to Volvo.
Just before the New Year, Volvo announced that it was adding Skype for Business compatibility to the infotainment systems of its 90 series cars. "Skype for Business represents another big step forward for our in-car connectivity and communication offer," said Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, vice president of Consumer Connectivity Services at Volvo Car Group, in a Dec. 29, 2016 announcement. "With the dawn of autonomous cars we see a future where flexible in-car productivity tools will enable people to reduce time spent in the office. This is just the beginning of a completely new way of looking at how we spend time in the car."
Roadside Skype meetings aside, Volvo and Microsoft are also exploring how to incorporate Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant, for voice-enabled intelligent services.