In Apple’s 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote, SVP Eddy Cue detailed “iOS in the Car.” This news was expected, as a few car companies had already integrated an “Eyes-Free Siri” feature. But Siri was basically a voice-search, not an immersive Apple ecosystem experience. “iOS in the Car” was a different animal. It included full voice and consol-based touchscreen controls for every aspect of iOS: music, maps, messaging, everything. And it was coming soon, very soon, to a dozen brands and counting.

Nine months later, at the annual Geneva International Motor Show, Apple finally let the cat out of the bag and officially named the service CarPlay, while detailing an impressive list of partners who would be releasing CarPlay enabled models in 2014. Take a gander: Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.

Imagine, all of your iPhone’s services at your fingertips (or tongue tip) during the morning commute or long road trip. The system, controlled by Siri voice-command or manual steering wheel/dashboard buttons, could turn any car into a personal entertainment and navigation center, complete with turn-by-turn directions, dictated messaging, and third-party app support (including favorites like Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Beats Music).

The announcement was a no-brainer, as multiple car companies (I’m looking at you, Ford) had utterly flubbed attempts at producing their own proprietary versions of CarPlay. And Apple’s old friend Google had already announced its very own Open Automotive Alliance, a “global alliance of technology and auto industry leaders committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014.” No time to lose!

Rejoice, the few million of you who are in the market for a brand new car this year. Chances are you’ll be able to find one that integrates with your mobile OS of choice. But what about the rest of us who are happily ensconced in an older model? I use iTunes too, you know.

Never fear, tortured souls. Today, Pioneer Audio announced that it will bring CarPlay to five of its popular in-dash NEX infotainment systems (aka thief magnets) in the coming months, with model prices ranging from $700 to $1,400. And Yesterday, Alpine Electronics announced its own CarPlay integration products, at the EVERYDAY LOW PRICE of $500 to $700. Expect a torrent of similar announcements to follow, as the booming Apple aftermarket rightfully panics.

Obviously, this needed to happen. Apple’s objective should be full market penetration, and while that is highly unlikely (I’d say impossible), it becomes much easier when older cars can get in on the game. The price point seems high, and definitely prices a significant portion of the aftermarket customer base out for now. But as 2014 models quickly enter the used car marketplace, CarPlay will quickly spread to all corners of the market.

This all comes at a time of major changes to the global dashboard. Audi is experimenting with a 12.3 inch LCD display, in place of the classic dash dials, that goes way beyond anything available in commercial vehicles today. And most tellingly, the Nikkei Asian Review cites a report from Yano Research, which “estimates conventional car navigation systems worldwide will fall from 21.11 million in 2013 to 38.2 million in 2018. Shipments of in-car entertainment systems that link to smartphones, by contrast, will leap roughly fivefold over that same period to reach 14.75 million.”

I can’t wait to plug in and say “play”.










Nicky DePaul