China’s tech giants have already conquered everyone’s phones and they’re making good headway into our sitting rooms. So for their next move, they’re jumping into people’s cars.
Their target is the screen in the car, which the Chinese titans are now scrambling to fill with their own software – just as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are doing in the rest of the world.
Alibaba, which last year put its “connected car” system onto the screens of a Chinese-brand SUV, today got a big boost for its automotive ambitions today after a joint announcement with Ford about collaboration plans.
“That marks the first time that AliOS, the operating system developed by Alibaba, is teaming up with an international automobile brand after the operation system was upgraded in September,” said Alibaba’s Simon Hu to Tech in Asia this afternoon. Hu is the president of the ecommerce firm’s Cloud and AliOS wings.
The news comes a day after Ford said it will launch 50 new models in China by 2025, of which 15 will be electric or hybrid.
Hit the road, Jack
While the partnership details are vague – Ford and Alibaba describe the union as “a letter of intent” – it shows Jack Ma’s company is racing to catch up with Baidu, which debuted its CarLife system in early 2015.
Baidu has already got onto the screens of numerous new models sold by Volkswagen, Audi, and Kia – to name but three – in China.
Here’s Baidu’s CarLife on a Mercedes-Benz GLA, shown off recently at CES Asia 2017:
Baidu has its own mapping service – as do Alibaba and Tencent – so it’s inevitably a central part of the system:
Aside from turning cars into smartphones, the search engine company is arguably leading the way in self-driving vehicles, with plans for an autonomous bus next year, followed by cars in 2020.
Tencent, the nation’s social media maven, is a little further behind its archrivals, last month announcing a joint venture with a Chinese automaker that will eventually form the basis of its own car-oriented software.
“We […] view it as an emerging platform to host our suit of digital content and entertainment services,” said a Tencent spokesperson today.
In-car screens will take on an entirely new life once people don’t need to do the actual driving – a new opportunity that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich recently described as “one of the greatest expansions of consumer time available for entertainment we’ve seen in a long time.”
See more on transportation:
Check out this huge ‘supercar vending machine’:
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