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As Apple CarPlay Rollout Nears, Details Emerge

By Daniel Sparks - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:30PM

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Apple's early moves with CarPlay give investors a better picture of its strategy for bringing iOS to wheels.

This morning, Apple ( AAPL -0.32% ) announced the rollout of its long-awaited iOS in the Car, rebranded as CarPlay. Along with the announcement are some new details. Volvo even released a video of Apple's iOS-based CarPlay in its own press release this morning.

CarPlay. Image source: Volvo's official announcement of future integration with CarPlay.

New details on Apple's CarPlay
First and foremost, investors have received some confirmation that there are many manufacturers ready to integrate CarPlay in their vehicles. "Vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo will premiere CarPlay to their drivers this week," Apple said in a press release today. "[A]dditional auto manufacturers bringing CarPlay to their drivers down the road and include BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda Motor Company, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp."

CarPlay piggybacks off an iPhone via a Lightning connector and will be available as an iOS 7 update for the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5. But Volvo's own press release this morning says that CarPlay Wi-Fi connectivity will be "coming in the near future." Volvo's video demo is the first official look at CarPlay in action.

What does Apple's move into vehicles mean for investors?
At the 2014 International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Apple was notably absent. Though Apple had already announced its iOS in the car at that point, the tech giant's absence meant investors were left with scant details. But with the veil finally removed, investors can now begin to think about how CarPlay could strategically play out for the company over the long haul.

The big question will be whether Apple's CarPlay will be able to compete effectively with Google's Open Automobile Alliance announced at 2014 CES. The alliance consists of a new and open Android platform to be used in cars. But Google is taking a very different approach with an aim to eventually power the car itself with Android as opposed to Apple's strategy to piggyback CarPlay on Apple devices.

By requiring Apple devices to power CarPlay, could Apple lose out to Google's approach to powering the car itself? The Motley Fool's technology bureau chief, Evan Niu, has expressed concern regarding Apple's refusal to give up its integrated approach as it takes iOS to the car:

I don't necessarily believe that Apple will lose the upcoming skirmish -- I just can't figure out how it can win. Maybe Apple needs to change gears every once in a while.

So early in the game, there's no reason to get excited or disappointed about Apple's CarPlay. But as the inevitable melding of software and vehicles continues, Apple investors should begin to keep an eye on this new space.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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