Interview: Microsoft executive sees “dominant role” for cloud computing in auto industry

Caglayan Arkan is in charge of Microsoft’s activities in the manufacturing and resources industries. In that role, he is also responsible for the software maker’s automotive business. He spoke this summer to automotiveIT’s Ralf Bretting about cloud computing, Microsoft’s automotive platform and the company’s ambitions in the automotive field. Microsoft expects the auto industry to adopt new products such as Office 2010 quickly. Germany’s Volkswagen has already decided to do so.

Because the new suite makes it possible for employees to work universally with a PC, a smart phone and web browser, Microsoft hopes it will ease companies’ entry into cloud computing,

Mr. Arkan, you are in charge of Microsoft’s global activities in manufacturing and raw materials and thus the auto industry. What are you doing to expand Microsoft’s presence, especially in this segment?

I see ample room for new business: geographically in the growing markets of Asia and South America, and on the product side, for example with the rapidly progressing networking of new car generations.

And where exactly are you starting with this strategy?

One of our greatest endeavors is to make monolithic central systems more transparent.

Whether it’s company management, product development or customer relationship management: we are convinced that employees can only involve themselves actively in the innovation process when they can find information quickly, process it and exchange it with their colleagues in other departments through the use of appropriate tools.

I consider a second important aspect to be securing technological trends and new product features via online communities and social networks. Through these channels, companies can develop an exact conception of the needs and expectations of their customers.

The more deeply this knowledge supports the product development process, the greater the acceptance and demand will be – in the automotive sector as well.

How deep will Microsoft immerse itself in these processes? Will there be new industry specific applications?

No, we see ourselves as the technological partners of the automotive industry, but we won’t be developing any vertical solutions. There won’t be a Microsoft PLM suite in the future.

We are continuing to concentrate on high-performance platform technologies on which specialized software suppliers from the ecosystem of Microsoft partners mount a great variety of different applications.

The same thing applies to the embedded field: Windows Auto is open to systems developers as a platform so they can bring new services into the vehicle.

Microsoft itself won’t take on a supplier role, however – even if increasing amounts of control software reach the vehicle as a result of drivetrain electrification.

With Office 2010 as its new version, Microsoft is promoting the penetration of cloud computing. How interested is the auto industry?

I am sure that cloud computing will play a dominant role in this industry as well. Many firms want to take an opportunity to test our new cloud services such as Exchange Online and SharePoint Online – initially in mixed operation with their own infrastructure.

They then will quickly recognize the advantages that are associated with hosted software solutions. Even skeptics with security concerns put a basic trust in Microsoft – and know that we will be able to adhere to the agreed-upon service level agreements regarding availability and data security.


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