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03/03

What Apple’s CarPlay Means for Radio

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By now you’ve heard about Apple’s new CarPlay platform which is gearing up for battle with Google’s Open Automotive Alliance, not to mention all the other platforms making a land grab for that whitest of spaces, the car dashboard.

The Apple platform – coming soon – will only be available on a few new car models and will be integrated with only the newest iPhone models and features only a few non-Apple app partners (notably excluding Pandora). But this is how change comes, one innovation, one device, one new car model at a time.

Here’s a video that illustrates how the platform works on a new Volvo:

The elegance and simplicity of CarPlay is mouth-watering in its appeal. Who wouldn’t want their dashboard to work like this?

Not so obvious in this video is the answer to questions like “How do I find the radio?” or “What if I want to play a CD?”

While the appetite for radio in its traditional form is not going to wither anytime soon, what you’re witnessing here is an attempt to meaningfully improve the dashboard experience so as to break old habits and form new ones. And nothing does that faster than transforming the frustrating and kludgy new car dashboard into an experience as familiar and comfortable and fulfilling as the one that lives on the iOS device in your pocket.

When this scales, consumers will not be asking “where’s the radio?” They’ll be asking “WHY the radio?”

And the answer will be: “Because there’s something there so unique and compelling you can’t find it anywhere else.”

Or else it won’t be.

What should be obvious to you is that the appeal of CarPlay is all “pull,” no “push.” It is the owner of the iPhone who will demand this platform in her new car. There will be no need for nationwide ad campaigns and hoity-toity alliances of industry leaders a la HD Radio. There will be no need to educate the consumer or sell them on a slate of presumed benefits. That’s because the benefits speak for themselves, and every consumer with an iOS device knows what they are.

This, more than anything, is the new world radio faces: A world where consumers hold all the cards. A world where habits intersect with technology and become fungible. A world where you either offer something people really, really want and can’t find anywhere else.

Or you don’t.

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