Microsoft, Toyota team up on digital auto network

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp and Toyota Motor Corp unveiled a plan on Wednesday to work together on bringing Internet-connected services to Toyota’s cars across the world.

The world’s biggest software company and the biggest automaker said they were investing about $12 million (1 billion yen) in Toyota Media Service Co, a Toyota unit that handles its digital offerings for customers.

Toyota is planning to set up a network based on Microsoft’s Azure “cloud computing” platform by 2015, which would allow customers across the world access to Toyota’s digital services, such as GPS, multimedia, and managing power on electric and hybrid vehicles.

One of the services Toyota is planning will monitor and integrate a person’s power usage across the home and car to maximize efficiency, for example by automatically charging electric cars when power rates are lowest.

The chief advantage for Toyota is that it will be able to offer Internet-delivered services to customers in all 170 countries it sells in, through the use of one Microsoft cloud platform, rather than having to set up networks and data centers in each country.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda traveled to Microsoft’s headquarters near Seattle to announce the partnership alongside Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Toyoda said he was at first doubtful about leaving Japan as the company struggles to get operations back to normal after last month’s earthquake, but said working on future business opportunities was the best way to help Japan’s recovery.

Microsoft has worked with Toyota for more than a decade, but Wednesday’s announcement signals an escalation of their co-operation. The software company has recently focused most of its auto industry technology efforts on Ford Motor Co.

($1 = 85 yen)

(Reporting by Bill Rigby, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis)

Microsoft, Toyota team up on digital auto network