If you thought Office 365 came a long way over 2015, in 2016 it looks set to go even further — literally. Microsoft has just announced a new partnership with Harman to bring Office 365 to automobile dashboards.
Harman designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers and enterprises worldwide, including connected car systems.
On The Road
The new partnership will see Microsoft bringing its productivity apps including Word, Excel and PowerPoint to cars for the first time along with much of the functionality that traditionally comes with the apps.
However, while Office apps appear to be the main focus of this release, the statement issued by Harman at CES 2016 in Las Vegas today indicates that other joint releases could be on the way.
The statement describes the partnership as a "connected car collaboration" that "anticipates the introduction of new services to the cockpit of the car."
Among those services, Harman is considering cloud platforms, telematics — defined as the use of wireless devices and black box technologies to transmit data in real time back to an organization — and unspecified productivity features.
Working While You Drive
For the moment, though, it's limited to Office 365, along with Skype for Business, accessible through Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant software, Cortana, which will enable drivers carry out tasks by voice activation.
Among those tasks, Harman cites scheduling meetings, hearing and responding to emails, and participating in conferences without having to manually input phone numbers or passcodes.
The goal, according to Harman, is to make the driver more productive.
But — and it’s a big but — are drivers really going to use it? Do you really want to work in your car at the end of a working day? Hands-free cell phone maybe, but a whole productivity suite? What about safety?
Clearly for Microsoft this is just another way of promoting its Office 365 suite.
Neither Harman nor Microsoft has explained how the Office 365 plans for automobiles will work, whether it will be part of existing enterprise plans, whether it will come with new cars or whether it will require a new subscription.
There is also another important element for Microsoft. This is Microsoft’s first venture into the car automobile space an area which Google appears to have cornered over the past 12 months with talks of driverless cars and all the possibilities they offer.
While driverless cars are not yet available for mass consumption they will be soon enough and Microsoft appears intent on not making the same mistake it did with Windows Phone, notably joining the race after everyone else has left the blocks.
It’s not clear yet when Office 365 will be available generally or what model cars will support it, but is on the way and already available with some Ford and BMW models.