“I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”
“I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”

Just recently, Apple announced that Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Ferrari will debut models that use the new "IOS in the Car" systems at the Geneva Auto Show next week. Mercedes and Ferrari don't just make incredible vehicles, but are often on the forefront of introducing new technologies. The fact that both manufacturers are willing to partner with Apple, provides a huge boost for their push into the automotive sphere.

Illustration for article titled The Future of Luxury Infotainment Systems Should Not be IOS
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I understand why Mercedes and Volvo would want this system. The appeal to younger consumers involved with the Apple ecosystem is huge. This is especially important to Mercedes, as they've been angling for a younger generation of buyers. And it would certainly help Volvo as well. Ferrari still remains up in the air. Perhaps they're interested in partnering with a firm that values design as much as they do.

In the long run, however, this is not an optimal decision for any of these manufacturers. First, it ties them to Apple. In recent years, Apple has grown into quite a behemoth. As it's done so, innovation has dipped. Apple has struggled to release new products, features, and higher spec'd revisions of previous releases (full disclosure: I own and love an iPad Air, Samsung SIII, and Microsoft Surface). And investors have taken note.

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Second, it beholds them to Apple's ecosystem. It's definitely a fact, that Apple is a huge player in the mobile computing space. But their market share is dipping in developed countries, and they're lagging behind Android in emerging markets like China. Mercedes, Ferrari, and Volvo are all seeking to woo Chinese customers, but using an Apple ecosystem may not be the sharpest option.

Illustration for article titled The Future of Luxury Infotainment Systems Should Not be IOS
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So what should Mercedes and Ferrari do? They should build their own ecosystem ambivalent infotainment system, as they've been doing since inception. They won't be without their flaws, but it's better than partnering with a firm that may not be there in the long run. In the past, Apple has shown willingness to drop products once they're ready to release a new revision or replacement product. They dropped Snow Leopard after only 4.5 years of being on the market, and with little to no alerts to their customers.

Consumer technology is a fast moving industry. Products, and even ecosystems, are ephemeral. While Apple may be a giant this year, they may be nothing more than a dwarf in five. A car isn't a product such as a phone or computer. Customers don't just throw away their vehicle after a contract is through.

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I'm going to throw Mercedes and Ferrari a free idea here (more disclosure: I'm not an engineer, so please be forgiving if the idea isn't the most technologically thought out). Build an app that's ecosystem agnostic. It'll mirror the features available on the customer's phone. For instance, the music will connect to Google Play on Android or iTunes on Apple. Same with maps and messaging. Mercedes already does this to an extent with their MBRACE system. The same app can provide information about the vehicle straight to the customer's phone. AMG might use it to send lap times after a track day.

This is just one small idea. There's so much more both of these marques can do with their infotainment systems. It's sad that they're just going to stick with what's already there instead of innovating.

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