7Digital Drives Further Into Autos

7digital, a white label supplier of digital music downloads and streaming services, has struck a deal to integrate its music store on QNX Software System's Car application platform being used by Audi, BMW, General Motors Co., Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

The integration will let drivers and passengers buy tracks from 7digital's catalog of 23 million songs via QNX's Car platform, which is currently integrated with millions of in-dash connected infotainment systems that allow drivers and passengers to access digital entertainment such as Internet radio, streaming music, directions and real-time traffic monitoring. 

"Connected and mobile devices have changed the way music is consumed, but one thing that hasn’t is people’s desire to listen to music in the car," said Ben Drury, CEO of U.K.-based 7digital. Under the agreement with QNX, track prices will range from $0.99 to $1.49 while albums will sell for $8.99 to $14.99.

Like many digital music services, 7digital has been looking for ways to penetrate the automotive market, which is seen as the next frontier for connected entertainment and a place to reach new customers. 7digital earlier signed a deal with electronics manufacturer Pioneer to be integrated with the company's AppRadio platform. Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, Slacker and others have come to similar arrangements with auto manufacturers to be integrated directly into the car's entertainment systems.

Until recently, the car has been the domain of broadcast radio and, for more than 23 million U.S. subscribers, satellite radio. Though smartphones can be easily connected to the audio systems of most cars, few people do so on a regular basis to stream entertainment, largely because the data costs are high and because it's difficult to juggle a small screen while driving.

QNX and other in-dash systems like it, such as Ford Motor Co.'s Sync platform, are designed to make the technical aspects of accessing media easier by building in control buttons on steering wheels or by integrating voice commands. Over time, many expect the second obstacle to be reduced as data costs decline.

Though confined to new, high-end vehicles today, connected infotainment systems are expected to become increasingly common in the coming years. ABI Research Analyst Dominique Bonte projected that 62% of the estimated 100 million cars shipped in 2018 worldwide will come with connected infotainment systems built in -- up from less than 10% in 2012.

"The lines between in-car systems, mobile devices, and the web are blurring," said Derek Kuhn, QNX's vice president of sales and marketing.


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