Say goodbye to the days you could enjoy your favorite podcast on your commute.
Last week, BMW and Microsoft announced that they will bring Skype for Business to the new BMW 5 series. The feature, which will allow drivers to dial into meetings and see indicators on attendee presence, is scheduled to roll out in the fall to Germany, France, and the UK before expanding to other markets. This is the latest update in BMW’s partnership with Microsoft to bring more connectivity and productivity to its cars. In December of last year, the companies collaborated to integrate Microsoft Exchange into the 5 series, giving drivers the ability to access and compose email, calendar events, and contact information through voice commands.
Although taking meetings during a commute may seem cringeworthy to some, BMW spokesperson Nadja Horn said the decision to add Skype was driven by user demand. Based on the company’s own customer research, 65% of its drivers are business professionals, she said.
“You’re starting to see more and more people using the car as an extension of their office,” said Chris Boody, the director of business development at Microsoft. “With the increase in traffic and congestion, I can see a lot more people doing that.”
Currently, the Skype integration is limited to audio conferencing—although a driver can also join a video conference through voice—and is designed to minimize the amount of time not spent looking at the road. Horn said the feature also underwent testing to make sure it’s no more distracting than “using the radio.” As BMW’s cars gain more autonomy, however, Skype functionality could expand, along with the range of other digital services, to enhance the in-car experience.
Though BMW is one of the first auto companies to commercially integrate Microsoft’s productivity suite into its vehicles, it won’t be the last. Microsoft has also been partnering with several other companies to offer the same services.
“Cars … are no longer purely a means of getting from A to B,” Horn wrote in an email. As the world grows “increasingly digital, connected, autonomous,” they are rapidly turning into “mobile office[s] on wheels.”
Ready or not, here they come.