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Volvo Brings Skype for Business and Cortana to the Dashboard

Drivers of Volvo's newest 90 Series of cars will be able to initiate and participate in calls and conferences using Microsoft's Skype for Business. Volvo is displaying the new in-dash Skype for Business feature at this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), taking place this week in Las Vegas.

Skype for Business will be part of dashboard infotainment experience in Volvo's high-end S90 sedan, as well as the company's XC90 SUV and V90 Cross Country wagon. Drivers have access under Skype for Business subscriptions, offered with Office 365 licenses. They use a Skype for Business application that will let drivers bring up their schedules and contacts to initiate or access calls and conferences.

"With the addition of Microsoft Skype for Business app, Volvo will eliminate the need for fumbling with your phone while driving or remembering long conference call codes," according to the narrative of a one-minute video advertising the feature. Once calls are completed, drivers can send themselves a note with the recording of the call.

"We see a future where flexible in-car productivity tools will enable people to reduce time spent in the office," said Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, Volvo's VP of consumer connectivity services, in a prepared statement.  "This is just the beginning of a completely new way of looking at how we spend time in the car."

Volvo is among a handful of automakers who have recently begun working with Microsoft to improve manufacturing and in-car experiences. Just over a year ago, Volvo revealed it was experimenting with Microsoft's HoloLens enhanced reality headsets. Other noteworthy automakers working with Microsoft include Nissan, Toyota and BMW.

Microsoft recently showcased its work with BMW at last fall's Ignite conference in Atlanta, where Executive VP for Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie demonstrated software that he said provides better customer engagement and an "immersive end-user experience" within the vehicle that spans both dashboard display and native mobile apps that the car owner can use to manage the car remotely. BMW built the capabilities using Azure IoT and the company's Azure Data Analytics services.

Asked if Volvo plans to make Skype for Business available in all of its models, a spokesman said for now the company is only offering it in the 90 Series 2017 models. Volvo said the company is also exploring the possibility of embedding Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant technology built into Windows 10, into its vehicles to enable voice recognition.

Volvo signaled strong interest in extending the use of voice recognition into its cars at last year's CES, when the company showcased the ability to control navigation, the heating system, door locks, lights and the horn using its Volvo on Call app via the Microsoft Band 2. A few months ago, Microsoft quietly discontinued the Microsoft Band, which could explain why Volvo is now looking at Cortana.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/04/2017 at 2:06 PM


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