Car crazy: Microsoft in the driver's seat


Staff member
DETROIT--Microsoft wants your next car or SUV to run Windows.

It's no joke. The world's largest software company is revving up to position itself as the largest supplier of software to car manufacturers, with a custom version of Windows CE controlling everything from in-vehicle entertainment to satellite navigation.

"We're providing the end-to-end telematic system," says Peter Wengert, an electrical engineer who is now a marketing manager for Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit. Telematics is the auto industry's term for networked cars.

Microsoft is racing to take advantage of what appears to be an inexorable trend toward smarter cars. General Motors says software and electronics already are responsible for more than one-third of the cost of a typical automobile, and an IBM executive predicted this week that the figure will be closer to 90 percent in five years.

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From the article
Windows Automotive, by the way, does not share a network with the low-level systems of a vehicle--so a software crash won't result in, say, brake failure.
but it can however lock you in your car, as has happened to some BMW owners which have a car with the I-Drive system (CE based) :)
Microsoft trying to get into automotive software business is nothing new. Many years of investment so far.

Most of the issues with IDrive were due to poor designed user interface and a telephone book to program it.

25% of vehicles are now electronic related and growing. Convergence of vehicle electronics and consumer electronics is the next hot thing.
I don't quite get what's new here? My car already has windows, six of 'em in fact. :(

Well I do remember reading something about a CAN (car area network) that was designed just for that purpose, to control devices from a central location without needing to run seperate wires to every device. Instead you could have just the power and a signal wire to command each device, like turning on lights, controlling windows (the see-thru kind), etc. The idea was to cut down on the wiring needed. This uses a chip set designed for cars and appliances called LIN bus (local interconnect network).

Hey, nice to see BSR posting again. Welcome back! :)
The majority of 2005 vehicles use CAN (CONTROLLER area network). There are around 30 controllers in each vehicle now. The highest around 75 (Maybach). Imagine a per CPU Microsoft licensing....
do CAN and OBDII go together or is CAN going to replace OBDII? I am not sure if CAN is a protocol (like OBDII) or just a 'vague' description for an infrastructure.
Yes, CAN and OBDII can go together. My 2004 Dodge Durango has both on the same diagnostic connector (under the dash). OBDII was a government requirement in 1996 and covers some of the data that a post 1996 vehicle can communicate. The gov't came up with that spec to make it a more open market for scan tool suppliers to compete with OEM scan tools so that the service aftermarket can purchase generic scan tools cheaper than having to buy all of the OEM specific scan tools. But, the aftermarket ones don't have any where near the capability of the OEM ones.

Keep in mind that OBDII is not a protocol - it is a regulation. There are about 3 popular protocols that OEMs use to meet OBDII regulation (J1850VPW,J1850PWM, ISO9141). CAN2.0 is a protocol and system architecture design of networked modules. There are likely two CAN networks on a vehicle - one high speed (engine management) and one low speed (doors / windows / etc).

OBDII only covers part of the data (most important data for diagnostics) from the engine controller. That is one of the 30 listed above... Many of the aftermarket professional scan tools companies also support transmission (2nd major controller), but none talk to the 30 (or so).

Only a small handful of the aftermarket scan tools support CAN now. The best is Ease Diagnostics Their CAN reflasher (J2534 - reprogram the controllers with OEM updates) will be on the market very soon.
any idea how to find out if my vehicle (2001 Ford Taurus) supports CAN? This would make it much easier to control the windows through my CarPC.
Very unlikely 2001 taurus is CAN. And it would make it more difficult for all data support right now as there is less CAN support right now. Window control would be unlikely to be publicly available even in the near future for CAN vehicles as the aftermarket likely won't support to that level (except for a few diagnostic tool companys). There are two pins in the diagnostic connector that support CAN. You could look to see if you have metal pins in those spots which is an indicator of CAN or not.

Lurk in this forum for some additional info:
Just be aware that there is a lot of misinformation on this site as most are not every keen on vehicle diagnostics (but think they are :) ). Look for a post by JYaron (who is a top notch expert) who provided the info on what pins. If you can't find it, let me know and I will look it up.
I am an active member there, but most people know much less than the data you just posted :) Thanks for the info tho, pretty interesting!