Monday June 10th, 2013 will mark the beginning of the 2013 Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) — an event that brings together Apple software and hardware developers to mostly learn and discover how to write better apps and create better products for Apple’s ecosystem of devices. This year, the conference sold out in a record two minutes (flat) — and just like every year before it, the event — or rather, the kick-off keynote — is to Apple enthusiasts what the 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray announcement was to GM, Chevrolet, and Corvette fans all over the world. While Apple’s secrecy surrounding future products is anything but new, we’re going to take this opportunity to present an educated guess about how tomorrow’s event might affect General Motors enthusiasts, as well as automotive fans in general.
What’s Definitely Coming
It’s almost fact that Apple will announce the next-generation of its mobile operating system — iOS 7 — at WWDC 2013. More important for the automotive industry, however, is the incessant rumor that the updated mobile software will deliver new ways for users to interact with their cars — a turn of evens that just might become a bombshell for automakers.
Some of you may also remember that one year ago, when Apple debuted iOS 6, it mentioned that General Motors was among a number of automotive partners that planned to integrate Siri Eyes Free functionality into its vehicles. As it turned out, General Motors was the very first automaker to bring Siri Eyes Free to market in the 2013 Chevy Sonic and Spark thanks to the integration with the MyLink infotainment system.
As a reminder, Siri Eyes Free allows drivers to activate Apple’s Siri automated assistant by pressing a button on the steering wheel, and then being able to ask the assistant questions, receive answers, and even perform commands without taking eyes off the road or hands off the wheel. The integration promised to minimize distractions by preventing the iOS device’s screen from lighting up, and users could ask Siri to call people, select and play music, hear and compose text messages, use Maps and get directions, read notifications, find calendar information, add reminders, and more — all with Siri Eyes Free.
So, how might Apple be planning to take this one step further?
According to Apple enthusiast website 9to5Mac, Apple has been working with automakers to make a special version of iOS that will function on the infotainment screens of vehicles. Users would connect the iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) to the infotainment system using either a wired USB connection or wireless Bluetooth, and would them be able to use a modified version of the iPhone user interface built right into the car.
So, part of Apple’s 2013 WWDC announcement could be a version of iOS built directly into and optimized for the vehicle. Notably, we’re not talking about mirroring the user interface onto the vehicle’s built-in screen. Instead, the (unconfirmed) newfound functionality in iOS 7 would use Apple software in the vehicle, and only be activated when paired with an iOS device.
GM’s Possible Involvement
Since GM was first to integrate Siri Eyes Free functionality, could it be that the automaker would be Apple’s closest partner in building the new car-centric iOS goodness directly into its own vehicles and/of infotainment systems?
The use case for doing something like this is rather straightforward:
- It would present users with an already-familiar user interface for drivers, as users are probably much more familiar with their smartphone (iPhone) than their car’s infotainment systems.
- It would allow users to utilize apps that are already on the their phone in their vehicle in a safe manner.
- It would still contain Siri Eyes Free functionality as seen today, and maybe even improved.
Coincidentally, GM rival Volkswagen is already offering something similar in a special edition Beetle it introduced earlier this year. Called the iBeetle, the vehicle is equipped with a dock for the iPhone and allows drivers to use the handset as a second screen for infotainment purposes.
When To Expect It
The 2013 WWDC keynote address — the opening event where Apple announces the new stuff relevant to both consumers and developers alike — will take place on June 10th, 2013 10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. However, if any of our guesses turn out to be true, the actual software and vehicle integration will likely arrive in actual GM vehicles months later.
Even though this is what one would call “rampant speculation”, it is worth mentioning that the proof might be in the the fact that we haven’t heard a peep about this from GM or any of its brands — which would be in great alignment with Apple’s own notoriously-secretive nature and the secrecy it swears upon its partners. Even so, it wouldn’t surprise us to see GM on the leading edge of the in-vehicle integration with Apple devices… if Apple is indeed working on the in-car functionality for iOS 7 in the first place. However, it is worth mentioning that GM has its own app-related efforts in the works, with the very first fruits of the undertaking due to launch at the end of this year.