By Max Clarke

‘Next-generation’ telematics, bringing together telecommunications and information technologies including GPS and energy management systems, will be provided by Microsoft in upcoming Toyota cars.

This is the result of a $12 million partnership between the world’s largest car company and the world’s largest software provider; with the ultimate goal to establish a ‘complete global cloud platform’ by 2015 that will provide advanced telematics services to Toyota customers around the world.

As part of its smart-grid activities, aimed at achieving a low-carbon society through efficient energy use, Toyota is conducting trials in Japan’s Toyota Smart Center pilot program, which plans to link people, automobiles and homes for integrated control of energy consumption.

“Today’s announcement of our partnership with Toyota is a great example of how we continue to invest in the automotive industry and of our commitment to power the services that are important to consumers,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “It further validates the power of the cloud, as the Windows Azure platform will provide the enterprise-grade, scalable platform that TMC needs to deliver telematics in its automobiles worldwide.”

Microsoft has a long history of delivering platforms and services to the automotive market, including in-car infotainment systems built on the Windows Embedded Automotive platform, in-car mapping services with Bing and the Microsoft Tellme voice application, and many other consumer solutions.

“This new partnership between Microsoft and Toyota is an important step in developing greater future mobility and energy management for consumers around the world. Creating these more efficient, more environmentally advanced products will be our contribution to society,” said Akio Toyoda, president of TMC. “To achieve this, it is important to develop a new link between vehicles, people and smart center energy-management systems.”