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Toyota and Microsoft ink e-car deal in a cloud of telematics

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Toyota and Microsoft have announced a $12m joint investment on including Microsoft's Azure cloud platform in upcoming Toyota vehicles for better telematics.

The two companies have been working together since 1998 on in-car mapping, entertainment and information services for cars.

Ideas include switching on heating while the car is charging or using a mobile to check charge levels on their electric car, and a timer switch function so you can set your car to start charging when electricity prices are lower overnight.

Toyota boss Akio Toyoda said the value of his company's vehicles would be boosted by making them communications tools too. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer said you had to shoot ahead of what customers want today.

Answering questions after the announcement, Toyoda said combining telematics with car management systems with Microsoft's cloud architecture would properly link vehicles to IT functions.

Toyoda expects vehicles on sale by 2012 to include Azure-based Smart Center technology. By 2015 the joint venture wants to have global deals with mobile firms to provide Toyota customers with comms services through their cars.

Ballmer said the first target was electric vehicle management and charging, but applications beyond that would follow on from 2012.

Microsoft's Toyota press release is here. ®

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