Ford announced earlier today that it would be going with Google Cloud in a six-year deal to help provide in-car connectivity and cloud service technology to power the company in the future. The specifics of the deal are vague at this point, but the Google partnership is part of an $11 billion restructuring plan Ford has laid out for the future of the company and isn’t exclusive.
According to CNBC’s reporting of the matter, Ford and Lincoln vehicles will sport Android Auto natively as their preferred infotainment services, and they will include access to Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Google Play as soon as 2023. There is another nebulous portion to the deal which would have Google provide cloud services to help streamline maintenance or trade-in opportunities for customers as well as powering a new group within the company called Team UpShift which will “use Google’s services and data expertise to better streamline Ford’s operations.”
Outwardly facing, it would seem Ford Motors is still a little bent out of shape regarding where its Microsoft infotainment partnership ended up roughly five years ago. Choosing the industry’s third-place cloud service provider appears to be a deliberate move that has more to do with the more immediate need to update its in-car operations and streamline its sales and services funnels than it does revamping its entire cloud-powered manufacturing operations.
While we wait to see how this story fully unfurls, many have marked this as a zero-sum loss for Microsoft because it used to be the go-to infotainment resource for Ford five years ago. However, in 2015 Ford signed a deal to use Microsoft Azure as a platform to deliver updates to vehicles as well as signing a 2019 deal with Amazon for other undisclosed services. Today’s Ford/Google deal isn’t an exclusive and CEO Jim Farley hasn’t revealed what, if any, current cloud services will be replaced, with the new partnership.
If anything, today’s news might have handed Blackberry’s QNX team a quiet but powerful blow, as it had become the replacement for Microsoft’s in-car SYNC service for the past few years as well as the company’s lifeline as it struggles to figure out mobile once again. With Ford going all-in on Google-powered cloud options for its direct in-car services, QNX may be on the shortlist of redundant overlapping services for Ford.