Microsoft Unveils Azure-based Connected Car Platform

Names Renault-Nissan Alliance as automotive partner for its new Connected Vehicle Platform

m1Technology giant Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) wants a slice of the fast-evolving connected car services technology market, and is pushing ahead to sell software for cars with a new set of programs and services, as reported by Bloomberg on January 06th, 2017. Many automakers are entering into alliances with technology giants to explore opportunities in the areas of the Internet of Things as well as connected and autonomous cars. Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) CarPlay and Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android Auto, which are simplified dashboard versions of their smartphone controls, are slowly appearing in newly launched cars. For all its worth, consumers can now look forward to an extraordinary connected car experience with the ability to use voice-activated devices to control their smart home, access entertainment, manage to-do lists, and much more.

m2Microsoft’s business development chief Peggy Johnson said that while the company itself will not be involved in developing self-driving cars, it will provide the platform for such vehicles. As part of this strategy, Microsoft is shifting away from its Windows platform in favor of a flexible approach that lets automakers pick the technology that they need. Microsoft is trying to revamp its auto offerings around its Azure cloud service, Office productivity suite, and Cortana, which is a major change from its previous strategy, which had auto manufacturers installing a version of the Windows operating system to run in-car entertainment and information systems. The change comes as carmakers are trying to turn their products into technology-packed, connected devices, rather than just a mode of transport.

Microsoft banks on Renault-Nissan Alliance

m3At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced that the Renault-Nissan Alliance will be its first automotive partner for the new Connected Vehicle Platform, which is designed to empower auto manufacturers to create custom connected driving experiences. The Renault-Nissan Alliance signed an agreement with Microsoft in September 2016 to work on connected car technology. With this agreement in place, Renault-Nissan will be the first customer for Microsoft’s Connected Vehicle Platform, which provides carmakers with a set of services built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud. Available as a preview later in 2017, the system will collect sensor and usage data and help automakers build services that use that information along with Microsoft services including Cortana voice-based assistant, Dynamics, Office 365, Power BI and Skype for Business.

Microsoft’s Connected Vehicle Platform is expected to power Nissan’s connected vehicles with advanced navigation, predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and other features. In addition, Azure will provide a common platform for Renault-Nissan to deploy services to both Alliance brands. The cloud platform supports devices and vehicles that run on multiple operating systems, programming languages, and tools.

As part of the new platform, Microsoft’s voice-activated Cortana digital assistant can be used in a car for things like scheduling a service appointment after the vehicle senses maintenance is needed. Nissan is expected to use the new Connected Vehicle Platform in more than 10 car models with autonomous driving technology by 2020.

Microsoft technology to power futuristic cars

Microsoft’s new Connected Vehicle Platform push comes three years after it lost Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) as a big customer of its Windows car product. This time around, Microsoft is seeking to be more flexible by offering carmakers only the software components they need rather than a fixed lineup. Car data could support a $750 billion business by 2030, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The promise from technology providers is that car companies can use software for everything from predicting when cars need maintenance, to better tracking of problems that lead to recalls and steering drivers towards local retailers.

m4General Motors Co (NYSE: GM) has a partnership with IBM’s Watson division to mine vehicle data, figure out driver preferences and habits, and use that to direct people to gas stations, restaurants and other goods and services. Shopping from the steering wheel could soon become a possibility after Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) announced that it would begin offering’s Alexa digital assistant with its Sync 3 car infotainment system. An automotive version of Amazon’s popular voice-activated Echo assistant, Alexa, would let drivers order items on, listen to audio books, play music, search for restaurants, and get directions.

While the Renault-Nissan alliance is the first customer for the new Microsoft platform, the software company has other carmakers signed up to use its software. Recently, Volvo Group partnered with Microsoft to integrate Skype for Business in Volvo’s 90 Series cars. Microsoft has also partnered with BMW AG on BMW Connected, the automaker’s personal mobility companion service, to develop a scalable platform based on Microsoft Azure technologies. Microsoft said that the platform will deliver in-car productivity services through Office 365, as well as intelligent personal assistance for drivers. Toyota is using Azure cloud services for its connected car venture.

Microsoft Ventures invests in Team8

In another recent development, Microsoft Ventures has invested in Team8, Israel’s leading cybersecurity venture to solve the most sophisticated cybersecurity problems, as reported by Bloomberg on January 09th, 2017. Microsoft Ventures, Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM), and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) join current Team8 cyber syndicate members Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Accenture PLC (NYSE: ACN), Nokia OYJ, Temasek Holdings, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., Bessemer Venture Partners, Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, and Marker LLC.

m5Team8 was founded by veterans of the IDF’s Intelligence & Technology Unit 8200; Nadav Zafrir, Israel Grimberg, and Liran Grinberg, and has raised more than $92 million in funding, with plans to launch two companies in 2017. Existing portfolio companies Illusive Networks Ltd, which entices hackers to trigger an alarm by planting false data, and Claroty, whose platform secures critical industrial infrastructure, generated $22 million in sales during its first commercial year of operations in 2016. Since its launch two and a half years ago, the group has raised more than $92 million in funding, employs 180 people in Israel, the US, the UK, and Singapore, and intends to hire 100 additional employees in 2017.

Team8 is aimed at addressing massive security breaches and unique cyber threats that have grown to some 700,000 each week from 20,000 just two years ago. It starts with a research team that pinpoints and seeks to solve major cyber vulnerability, then spins off the technology into a company that gets initial financing from the group. It created the syndicate as a way for the corporate world to share information and get ahead of the attackers. Nagraj Kashyap, Microsoft Ventures’ corporate vice president, said that the Company will work closely with Team8 to research cybersecurity challenges.

Stock Performance

m6Microsoft’s stock stood at $62.61, slipping 0.92%, at the close on Thursday, January 12th, 2017, having vacillated between an intraday high of $63.40 and a low of $61.95 during the session. The stock’s trading volume was at 20,898,965 for the day. The Company’s market cap was at $482.63 billion as of Thursday’s close.

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