As cars morph into computers and vehicles shift from being products to services, who will control the operating system? It is not an inconsequential question. Microsoft owned the desktop through the 1980’s and 90’s but Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS destroyed its monopoly on the most common personal IT product as ruthlessly as it originally dispatched Netscape on the browser.

Now a new study from Technavio lists QNX, Microsoft, and Linux as the three major product segments, of which QNX dominated the market with over 46 per cent of the market share in 2016.

The analysts also forecast the global automotive infotainment OS market to grow at a CAGR of close to 17 per cent during the forecast period, according to their latest report which also covers the present scenario and growth prospects of the global automotive infotainment OS market for 2017-2021.

According to Siddharth Jaiswal, a lead analyst at Technavio for automotive electronics research, “The automotive industry is increasingly witnessing the adoption of infotainment systems. The increase in the integration of advanced features into these systems has led to the development of infotainment OSs that are open source and provide a standard platform for developers.”

Technavio automotive research analysts highlight the following three drivers that are contributing to the growth of the global automotive infotainment OS market:

  • Development of open-source and standardized platforms
  • Rising demand for smartphone integration with IVI systems
  • Integration of infotainment with other on-board systems
  • Development of open-source and standardized platforms

The study’s authors say that traditionally, the competition among the automotive manufacturers was limited to the towing capacity, acceleration, and horsepower of the vehicle. However, recently, there has been a shift in the focus of consumers and OEMs from what is under the hood to what is behind the vehicle’s dashboard.

In future the report suggests that automobile manufacturers and automotive infotainment system manufacturers will compete on the software or OS used in the vehicle infotainment systems.

“Manufacturers of automotive infotainment systems are shifting toward the PC-like architectural concept. In this, the functionality of the system is dependent on the main central processing unit (CPU). Thus, the OS or software used in the systems acts as the product differentiator among the brands,” say the authors.

And they note that OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers are also supported by organizations like GENIVI and CCC that have taken the initiatve to standardize product offerings and promote the use of open-source platforms like Linux OS. “As a result, OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers will be able to reduce the cost of application and firmware development, which will decrease the cost of infotainment systems further.”

Rising demand

The report suggests that demand for in-vehicle built-in connectivity and telematics has led to technological improvements, which is aimed at enhancing the overall in-vehicle experience of both passengers and drivers. “With consumers getting used to interacting with their personal mobile devices, they expect the same experience from their in-vehicle entertainment and information systems as well, especially on the user interface.”

Consumers prefer connecting their smartphones and tablets to the vehicle’s infotainment systems to access enhanced entertainment and information services, say the authors. For instance, Apple’s car integration CarPlay interface is available through Pioneer’s aftermarket in-dash infotainment offerings.

Integration of infotainment

The IVI systems manufactured today are expensive when compared to smartphones say the authors. A typical IVI system will cost more than USD 1,000 whereas a top-end smartphone will cost somewhere in the vicinity of USD 700. “Additionally, customers’ growing preference for smartphones while driving has resulted in a slump in demand for IVI systems. Therefore, OEMs have integrated IVI systems with other systems like telematics systems and driver assistance systems. Consumers are ready to pay a premium price for integrated systems owing to the bundling of the offering,” according to the report.

“Infotainment systems are being integrated with telematics systems to provide information about navigation systems and on-board diagnostics through HMI,” says Siddharth.

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