Apple's iOS In The Car Icon
Apple wants this icon in as many car dashboards as possible. Will it provide technical support for the life of each vehicle that gets it? Apple

Could there come a day when the operating system of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is used to control a car’s defroster or Siri-voiced navigation system without having to actually plug in an Apple portable device?

Apple and its legions of die-hard fans would certainly like to see that, and a wide swath of manufacturers -- including Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (TYO:7267), General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Daimler AG (ETR:DAI) are reportedly integrating the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech company’s software into some of their 2014 vehicles.

But questions are being raised about whether or not car companies want to, or should, adopt Apple’s iOS as some kind of industrywide default standard, or whether they want to make their dashboard setups brand-specific. Another consideration is that the average life of a car is much longer than the typical time a developer continues to offer support for legacy versions of operating systems. (Try finding support or updates for a 10-year-old operating system.)

“You replace your phone every 14 months, you replace your car every 68 months. The software will be ancient by the time you trade in your car,” quipped the Chicago-based industry analyst AutoBird on his Twitter feed. Many automobile purists, including Car & Driver magazine columnists, have been lamenting the so-called tabletization of vehicle dashboards -- many of them containing clunky operating systems requiring navigation through touchscreen folders to access functions like climate control that would make most people happily embrace Apple’s slicker software interface.

Apple unveiled its “iOS in the Car” product at its WWOD 2013 developer’s conference in San Francisco on Monday beneath an Apple-esque steering wheel icon, with reps boasting that more than nine automakers are committed to using the software in their vehicles.

Here’s what Thilo Koslowski, a vehicle communications technology analyst at research firm Gartner Inc., told Automotive News on Wednesday:

I see some potential tension going forward … "That's going to be an interesting balancing act in the automotive industry -- to attract partners like Apple, but at the same time still hang onto that overall customer experience. If that's being given away to somebody like Apple, then it won't be much left for the automotive industry to succeed in the connected-vehicle space."