Updated from 7:57 a.m. to include information about additional app support in the fourth paragraph.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As Apple (AAPL - Get Report) looks to new initiatives to reinvigorate growth, the connected car is the next obvious area. The tech giant announced that several leading manufacturers are rolling out CarPlay, Apple's take on the connected car, with help from the iPhone.
CarPlay, previously known as iOS in the Car when it was announced at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in June, gives iPhone users a more intuitive way to use the car's infotainment center, as well as making calls, using Maps, listening to music and accessing messages. Auto manufacturers included in the rollout this week are Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. Other manufacturers including BMW Group, Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Honda (HMC), Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor (TM) will come later this year.
"CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing, in a statement. "iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction. We have an amazing lineup of auto partners rolling out CarPlay, and we're thrilled it will make its debut this week in Geneva."
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Not only does CarPlay give drivers access to everything that's on their iPhone, including music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes Radio, but it also supports select third-party audio apps. In the press release, Apple touted support for Spotify and iHeartRadio, but curiously not Pandora (P) or Google (GOOG) Play Music.
The connected car market is expected to be enormous, with Transparency Market Research Report noting it's expected to reach $131.9 billion by 2019. As Apple struggles to generate revenue growth from its existing products, the company is looking at alternative measures, including CarPlay, to drive growth, while the company works on new products.
A curious exclusion from the aforementioned list is Tesla Motors (TSLA - Get Report). We know that Apple and Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk have talked in the past year, with Musk confirming the talks, however the Tesla chief declined to say what the talks were about. There's been speculation that Apple would partner with Tesla to bring the aforementioned CarPlay to Tesla's Model S cars, but Tesla was not included in the initial list from Apple.
Apple's fascination with the car goes back quite a while, going back to 2012, when Mercedes-Benz and Apple announced Siri would be put into the A-Class Mercedes Benz line, allowing drivers to use the apps on their iPhones via voice commands. The program, known as Drive Kit Plus, works in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz's Digital DriveStyle App.
The fact that Apple would finally unveil CarPlay and its partners so shortly after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January is no coincidence. The connected car was all the rage at CES this year, with seemingly every auto manufacturer showing off its latest infotainment unit, as cars become the next mobile devices.
Once the iPhone is connected to the vehicle with CarPlay integrated into it, all users have to do is use Siri, Apple's voice-activated personal assistant, to access the various features, similar to what is already happening in Chevrolet cars with Eyes-Free-Siri.
Apple CarPlay is available as an update to iOS 7 and works with Lightning-enabled (iPhone 5 and up) iPhones. CarPlay will be available in select cars shipping in 2014.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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