April 7, 2011

Toyota, Microsoft Partner On Vehicle Digital Services

Microsoft Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. announced on Wednesday a strategic partnership under which the two companies plan to build a global platform for Toyota's next-generation telematics services using the Windows Azure platform.

The companies said they were investing 1 billion yen, or about $12 million, in Toyota Media Service Co., a Toyota subsidiary that offers digital information services to customers.  The unit will focus on telematics, the combination of telecommunications and information technologies, which could include GPS systems, energy management and other multimedia technologies that could be used in Toyota's vehicles.

Toyota said it plans to create a network based on Microsoft's Azure "cloud computing" platform by 2015, which would provide affordable and advanced digital services to Toyota customers around the world.

As part of its smart-grid activities, Toyota is conducting trials in Japan of its Toyota Smart Center pilot program, which plans to link people, automobiles and homes for integrated control of energy consumption. Toyota said it believes such systems will rely more on telematics services for achieving efficient energy management as electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles become more popular.

Microsoft has a long history of delivering platforms and services to the automotive market, including in-car infotainment systems built on the Windows Embedded Automotive platform, in-car mapping services with Bing and the Microsoft Tellme voice application, along with many other consumer solutions.  However, the partnership with Toyota represents a divergence for the software giant, which until now has worked mainly with Ford Motor Co. on its auto industry technology efforts.

"Today's announcement of our partnership with TMC is a great example of how we continue to invest in the automotive industry and of our commitment to power the services that are important to consumers," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

"It further validates the power of the cloud, as the Windows Azure platform will provide the enterprise-grade, scalable platform that TMC needs to deliver telematics in its automobiles worldwide."

Toyota Motor Corp. president Akio Toyoda praised the new partnership, saying it was a vital first step towards future progress.

"This new partnership between Microsoft and Toyota is an important step in developing greater future mobility and energy management for consumers around the world. Creating these more efficient, more environmentally advanced products will be our contribution to society," he said.

"To achieve this, it is important to develop a new link between vehicles, people and smart center energy-management systems."


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