Volvo, Mercedes, and Ferrari demo Apple's CarPlay in Geneva

March 3, 2014: 8:15 AM ET

In the race to control your car's OS, Apple pulls ahead of Google and Microsoft.

CarPlay. Photo: Apple

CarPlay. Photo: Apple

FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) launched a major initiative at the Geneva International Motor Show Monday in what's shaping up as the next battleground -- after the desktop and the pocket phone -- in the computer platform wars: The dashboard of your car.

In a press release and live demos with a trio of big-name automakers, Apple re-released and re-branded iOS in the Car, which it had announced only last June. The new name is CarPlay, a calculated marketing reference to AirPlay, Apple's proprietary system for streaming video, audio, photos and Web content from Apple devices to TVs and stereos.

Similarly, CarPlay will tap into a stack of Apple-owned technologies -- Siri, iTunes, Maps -- and its reputation for ease of use to differentiate Apple's offering from its chief competitors: Google's (GOOG) Open Automotive Alliance, introduced in January, Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Embedded Automotive, now in its 8th version, and the GENIVI Alliance, a nonprofit compliance program based on Linux.

The state of play as of January 6. Source: The Guardian.

The state of play as of Jan. 6. Source: The Guardian.

Apple's pitch:

CarPlay gives iPhone users an incredibly intuitive way to make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access messages with just a word or a touch. Users can easily control CarPlay from the car's native interface or just push-and-hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri® without distraction.

Vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will premiere CarPlay to their drivers this week, while additional auto manufacturers bringing CarPlay to their drivers down the road include BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.

Apple's line-up of partners puts it ahead of the pack -- even Microsoft, which has been in the car OS market since 1998. Since the Guardian published the attached checklist in January, Ford (F) announced that it has dropped Windows Embedded Automotive in favor of BlackBerry's (BBRY) QNX.

Apple CarPlay is available as an update to iOS 7 and works with Lightning-enabled iPhones, including iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5.

UPDATE: At about 9:30 a.m. Cupertino time, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller tweeted a link to a new CarPlay promotional page on the company's website:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 1.11.57 PM

Link: Apple Rolls Out CarPlay Giving Drivers a Smarter, Safer & More Fun Way to Use iPhone in the Car

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