Microsoft is making a fresh attempt to convince companies to use its technology for connected cars. The software giant is announcing a patent licensing deal with Toyota today, the first of its kind. Toyota is the first partner to license Microsoft’s new auto licensing program, which includes access to navigation, entertainment, and voice recognition features that Microsoft has developed. Toyota isn’t revealing exactly what the company plans to use the patents for, but it’s clear Microsoft isn’t simply supplying software packages to run in cars.
The patent licensing deal seems like a step back from Microsoft’s more ambitious efforts with cars over the years. Microsoft first unveiled its Windows in the car concept nearly three years ago, but it has failed to make it a reality. The concept looked like a competitor to Apple’s own CarPlay system to transform mobile devices into a hub for a car’s entertainment system.
Microsoft has previously revealed it doesn’t want to build self-driving cars, but it has ambitions to help power them. Harman revealed last year that it was planning to integrate Office 365 into its infotainment systems, and both Nissan and BMW plan to bring Microsoft’s Cortana assistant to their cars.
Microsoft has historically partnered directly with car manufacturers to provide special versions of Windows for vehicles. Ford, Kia, BMW, Nissan, and Fiat have all used this software previously, but this new patent initiative suggests that Microsoft is more willing to take an easy route of licensing out its hard work and research than provide a software ecosystem for connected cars.