Here's why it's important to know that HTC's flagship One (M8) smartphone will be compatible with MirrorLink, even if you don't know what MirrorLink is.
Cars and phones are coming together, but it's a process. No matter how smooth those recent demos of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay look, the awful truth is, it takes some doing to get a car, a phone, and an app to work together well. My recent experiences with Ford's Sync AppLink show how complicated things can be.
No one knows that as well as the Car Connectivity Consortium. Its MirrorLink technology is just like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but it's designed to work with any phone, not just one platform.
"One of the challenges we faced is getting all the pieces of the ecosystem in place," said Alan Ewing, CCC's president and executive director. First it was automaker support, then app developer support, and now, with the HTC One, smartphone support. "All the HTC Ones out there already can be upgraded via OS update," Ewing continued, though the update will be handled by individual carriers on their own schedules.
With the HTC One on board, the CCC's Ewing expects other HTC and Android phones will soon follow. "We expect the floodgates to start opening on handsets," he said.
The MirrorLink-compatible cars are coming soon, too. Major supporters including Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen have "vehicles coming down the assembly line even now," Ewing added.
The good news for consumers is that most new cars will have compatibility with all these technologies, be they from Google, Apple, or the Car Connectivity Consortium. While the first two have the brand cachet, it's worth noting that MirrorLink has the support of more than 100 vendors across all invested industries, not just one monolithic company.
"As an industry standard rather than a proprietary play, it has the most future-proofing," argued CCC's Ewing. Automakers are at the mercy of Google or Apple--two companies hardly known for sharing when it comes to product development. "The automakers are rightfully a bit concerned," said Ewing. "With a proprietary approach, if an OS vendor discontinues its work, the auto guys are left holding the bag."
HTC One users can check with their carriers about the MirrorLink update. As for MirrorLink-compatible cars, expect to see a lot of them coming in the 2015 model year---and they'll likely be compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, too.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.