automotiveIT: Microsoft is less visible in the automotive space than, for example, Google or Apple. Is that on purpose, as you invest more in B-2-B partnerships with automakers and suppliers.
Sabine Bendiek: We see ourselves as partner to the industry, not as a competitor, and we are working together with automobile manufacturers on tomorrow’s mobility. We’re not interested in having our own automotive brand, but our goal is that, in future, every vehicle will have Microsoft technologies on board. These could be our digital speech assistant Cortana, which is a classic customer interface. Skype functions as the front-end for communication to the outside; drivers can participate in skype meetings while driving. These technologies are based on our Connected Vehicle Platform, the scalable cloud platform for connected automotive solutions. That makes us an integral part of all developments involving tomorrow’s connected driving – at the interface to the user as well as in the backend.
Microsoft is in a blockchain partnership with Renault. Is blockchain living up to the hype?
I am convinced that the blockchain technology, which is still young, has disruptive potential, because it can fundamentally alter the way people trade and exchange things, fulfill contract obligations and share data. We are turning blockchain into a technology with practical use that can be interesting in many use cases, including in the auto industry. The blockchain-based digital car passport we have developed jointly with Renault, brings together vehicle information and creates a totally new basis for transparency and trust in, for example, used-car sales. One project doesn’t justify the hype, but with a concrete usage example, you get an idea how blockchain could, in future, change entire ecosystems.
Microsoft is not a major player when it comes to acquisitions in the automotive sector. Are you more committed to realizing things on your own?
We see ourselves first and foremost as a platform company and we cooperate with big-name automotive manufacturers worldwide. We concluded a comprehensive partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance in 2016 already. Together with our automotive partners we want to further develop technologies and services around the connected car and autonomous driving. These are highly complex issues and no company can do this all on its own. That’s why we are engaging in strategic partnerships with companies in the automotive industry and beyond to create the mobility of the future.
-Interview by Werner Beutnagel