Mercedes navigation systems

Mercedes-Benz apple navigation system

Apple (AAPL) is building a mercedes navigation system for Mercedes-Benz set to debut in early 2009, with more general availability about six months later. While it sounds cool, I suspect that it's actually more speculation than fact. Yes, Apple has been working on integrating Google mapping services into its products. Yes, Apple has been working with the car companies on integrating iPod and presumably iPhone functions into cars. Yes, Apple is probably working on GPS functions for the iPhone to help it comply with US 911-emergency locating requirements. But Apple actually doing an in-dash GPS navigation system as an exclusive for Mercedes just sounds wrong because: navigation system

1. Mercedes has unique interfaces. While most of the auto industry has standardized on DIN sizes and connections for car accessories, Mercedes doesn't do that, preferring to link everything on a fiber-optic network. As a result, interfacing an Apple GPS to a Mercedes really won't help it penetrate any other manufacturers since it will have to change the electrical interfaces completely to make it work with other auto makers.

2. Mercedes engineers a completely integrated experience. All of the Mercedes electronics talk to one another to ensure the driver gets the best experience. So directions from the GPS don't just come out on the in-dash console, they also appear below or as part of the speedometer display and, when voice directions are used, lower the volume on the radio or CD player while it is speaking. Similarly, the Tele-aid safety system needs to be able to pull the car location from the navigation system for safety and concierge services. This level of integration would require Apple's GPS unit to be aware of other Mercedes-installed electronics in the car -- and again wouldn't be compatible with other makers vehicles.

So what's our take? I believe that Apple may be working with Mercedes for an iPhone integration port, similar to the iPod integration ports that it has negotiated with other car manufacturers. And given the time frame specified, this would likely be for an iPhone version 2 or 3, which would have GPS capabilities. But given both Apple's and Mercedes' insistence on creating unique branded experiences, I expect both companies to retain their independence, and to resist any temptation to build "Apple inside" your Mercedes navigation system.

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