Streaming in the Car Is Huge Business – So Which Service Will Win?

This article first appeared in the April 26th issue of Billboard Magazine.

As the New York International Auto Show opened on April 18, a rash of announcements and demonstrations heralded the ongoing rush to further music-­connectivity in cars. AT&T added Volvo to its stable of cars that will link to its wireless Sensus Connect infotainment option, Pioneer put out the word that it will connect its in-dash systems to Apple's CarPlay interface, and Jaguar showed off new features, developed with Bosch SofTech, that allow apps from iPhone and Android devices to be displayed on a car's tech system.

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"When you get the younger buyer, connectivity is huge. When they see our research, it's the No. 1 reason they purchase a car," says Scott Keogh, president of Audi America, which has pre-wired its 2015 A3 sedan with an AT&T 4G LTE connection that turns the car into a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot with access to thousands of streaming Internet stations.

According to Gartner Research, in five years 70 to 80 percent of all new vehicles will include the high-speed wireless service options. As in the smartphone wars, the same players -- Google, Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry -- are battling for supremacy over the connected car.

Some car companies are offering built-in technology, like General Motors' OnStar system and its accompanying App Shop. Others are opting for brought-in technologies, with the driver's mobile device running apps controlled through the car dashboard, using MirrorLink, a standard backed by a consortium of car companies, or Apple's CarPlay.

"People want Pandora in the car, and they don't want to have to think whether it's on the phone or in the dashboard," says Forrester Research connected car analyst Frank Gillett. "The reality is that car manufacturers need to embrace the phone and have the experience come through the phone and the car. In the meantime, we're going to have a lost five years while the car companies learn the same thing the telcos learned with smartphones."