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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Parrot bets on Android winning in-car device market

Parrot, an upstart French technology company, is betting that drivers want their cars to be fitted with an all-in-one "infotainment" device based on Google's popular Android operating software to give hands-free control of its smartphone, radio, music and satellite navigation functions.
Best known for hands-free car phone kits, Parrot has spent the last three years and tens of millions of euros developing the first-ever car radio based on Google's Android, gambling that it will become a must-have for drivers wanting more than just a good stereo system and a cradle for their smartphones.
Instead, the 250 million-euro ($312 million) company believes they will want its voice-controlled, multi-purpose "Asteroid" radio, the first version of which it launched last year. The company says it has sold between 20,000 and 25,000 radios so far to individual buyers for around $290.
The current version features relatively few apps but Android's "open-source" platform means that any software developer can modify the code of existing apps to adapt them to the car as well as create and share new apps that might appeal specifically to drivers and as first-mover this could be a potential "game changer" for Parrot, said Roger Lanctot, associate director for the global automotive practice at Strategy Analytics.
To this end Parrot has now made a software development kit available online for developers, inviting them to create new apps around the themes of geolocation, driving assistance, contact management and music.
"Because they embraced it early, they certainly have some advantages in terms of their experience in working with Android and apps-based platforms in a system in a car," Lanctot said.
But it still faces seemingly daunting odds in taking on audio specialists like Harman International, Pioneer and JVC-Kenwood as well as GPS satellite navigation manufacturers such as Garmin and Tomtom and is now hoping to get major automakers to pre-install its Android-powered technology in their new car models.
"It's a market that will be battled over by a huge number of people," Eric Beaudet, analyst at Natixis said. "Undoubtedly, this is a market that will develop very quickly."


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