Apple iOS 5, iCloud: What's Coming For Your Car

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Apple has introduced its new iCloud service and mobile operating system, iOS 5. What does that mean for cars?  Perhaps a lot.

The most interesting development for drivers is arguably iCloud, which allows users of devices such as the iPad or iPhone to share purchased songs, photos, books and video with a "cloud" instantly, taking the place of a home PC.  Additionally, the new iPhone operating system iOS 5 allows these devices to be a primary computer; no syncing with a PC is necessary to transfer content or updates.

While Apple has not in the past entered into a partnership with a car company, we can guess that auto manufacturers that are now selling cars with in-car Wi-Fi and hard-drive space are sitting up and taking notice. If not, they should.

Here's why.

The iPhone or iPad you're carrying with you today likely has more hard-drive space, more memory and a faster processor than your home computer did back at the turn of the century.  I'm carrying days worth of songs, about 10 movies, countless photos, email, contacts and games on my iPhone 4.  Even on systems with the best current integration, I can get some of that in my car only if I plug it in. 

An in-car system with iOS 5 and iCloud would just ping-pong all that stuff from my phone to my car via iCloud using 3G or WiFi.  Updates to the car's iOS 5 based entertainment system (iCar?) would be handled over the cellular network, either built in or by a tethered iPhone.  You could be on a family trip listening to your tunes while your wife surfs the web looking for a decent meal on Yelp in the next town and your kids are in the backseat playing "Cut the Rope" or streaming Cars 2.

Of course, Apple hasn't said anything about this sort of application of its software, but they're notoriously tight-lipped about future plans.  They are also notoriously controlling of their products, whether the interface, the product styling or the pricing structure.  The Mac faithful will point out that this level of control resulted in the iPod, iPad and iPhone.  Apple detractors will churlishly mention the G4 Cube, Apple TV and iPod Hi-Fi.

All it would take is a manufacturer to make the move and ask.  I don't know that they haven't yet, but the question is whether there's interest among consumers in having Apple in your dashboard as well as your pocket.

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