Will a closed ecosystem kill CarPlay?

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Apple has a history of keeping its own apps close and everyone else at arms length. It regularly circles its wagons and kicks apps from the app store that it doesn’t like and is keen to stomp out competition through legal action and patent filings. In short, it doesn’t want competition for its own products and to ensure that, it regularly blocks them from competing on the same platform. That same trend is continuing with its CarPlay infotainment system, which will not allow third party messaging apps, because Apples wants you to use its one instead.

This might not be such a problem with smartphones, where it has a big enough audience to continue pushing small updates as big news – they’ll continue to sell. But with CarPlay, where there are heavily connected alternatives from major carmakers and of course, Android Auto from Google, its closed ecosystem could become a real problem.

Take WhatsApp for example. It’s the world’s most popular messaging applications with over 600 million users world wide and yet Apple won’t even let it get near CarPlay as it knows it will cannibalise its own messenger’s user base. But then, if Android Auto supports it and vocal commands to use it while you drive, won’t that give it a big advantage?

Not everyone believes this will last, with Adage reporting that a lot of different automakers believe Apple will begin supporting third party messaging applications on CarPlay in the future due to demands from consumers and its manufacturer clients, but it may not happen overnight.

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Of course it does allow some third party applications already, like Spotify and iHeartRadio, giving it a decent suite of music streaming options. The question is though whether it will extend that to other aspects of its CarPlay system before Google hoovers up the market with its extra abilities produced by the explosion of third party applications.

Google isn’t entirely open with its third party app support, stating that anyone that wants to get on Android Auto will have to stick to rigorous standards and will need to be tested heavily before becoming available, but it’s much more keen to get other companies developing for it than it is to do all the work itself.

Audi’s Mr. Halliger isn’t sure whether Apple’s strategy will kill CarPlay, or make it pay off, but it’s something he’ll be keeping an eye on:

“They have different styles,” Mr. Halliger said, when asked about working with Apple and Google. “There’s the Apple approach and there’s the Android approach. But I think [the automakers] are pretty much aligned. We have to be. Each party has their own opinion about how this looks in detail, but of course, the automotive experience aligns us.”

At this stage, while several auto-makers have pledged support for both platforms, a lot have paired off with either Apple or Google, so it will be interesting to watch the powerplay for the more popular car makers take place over the next few years.

 

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.