Baidu have introduced a new open sourced firmware called Apollo for Autonomous cars. If you’ve not heard of Baidu, think back to the last time a really spammy adware asked you to install a ‘discrete’ browser, that’s Baidu. While they may not be the most commonly used browser on the planet, within the confines of the Chinese republic they are the undisputed champions with few other companies even coming close. They even have a search engine similar to the Google interface the world follows. Bringing us back to Apollo which Baidu had announced earlier this year. Perhaps, the most important detail here is that Apollo will be open-sourced which, like with Android, leaves the door of development and R&D wide open. This is the part where Microsoft comes in. While Alphabet’s (Google) Waymo and Uber struggle to develop their own self-driven car, Microsoft has left the car building to those who do it best (ie Volvo among others), and stuck to their strengths working on interfaces and software to assimilate the hardware used in the vehicle and compute results. Which puts Baidu’s Apollo right up Microsoft’s street. Apollo has already been hot-topic since it was announced earlier in July, with global tie ups including Nvidia, Ford, Intel already in.
The correct question to be asking at this point is, Why does Baidu need Microsoft then? Well while Baidu may have the computing power to use data gathered by smart cars within the confines of China, they will need Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform to be able to process the data globally. Meanwhile, Microsoft who have been working more on connected automobiles needs a platform to work on self-driving cars, a role to which an open source firmware like Apollo fits perfectly. Making the Environment perfect for the two longtime rivals to push efforts together, through the medium of an expanded partnership. Now this partnership has all the firepower to do what Android did to smartphones only this time with smart cars if played right.