No dodging that conference call now: Volvo adds in-car Skype for Business, will test Cortana too

Volvo will test out Cortana to add voice recognition and predict the needs of drivers.

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The Skype for Business in-car app can improve productivity and safety, Volvo says.

Image: Volvo

Volvo says it will add Microsoft's Skype for Business app to its new 90 Series range of cars.

Motorists will be able to view upcoming meetings and their participants, and take part with one click via the vehicle's large central display, the car maker said.

According to Volvo, its deal with Microsoft also includes "the exploration of using Cortana", Microsoft's digital personal assistant, with the "express intention" of adding voice recognition and contextual insights to predict the needs of drivers. Ericsson will provide the cloud-based infrastructure for the service.

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"We've all been there, sitting in the car trying to join a conference call. You either fumble with or drop your phone while trying to connect or you forget the long pin code to join. It's not the best way to start an important call in the car. On top of all that, your attention is not where it should be -- on the road. With the addition of Skype for Business all that goes away," said Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, Volvo's vice president of consumer connectivity services.

"With the dawn of autonomous cars we see a future where flexible in-car productivity tools will enable people to reduce time spent in the office. This is just the beginning of a completely new way of looking at how we spend time in the car."

Tech companies and car makers are building alliances to take advantage of the increasing computing power packed into cars.

Tech firms want to make sure their apps are the ones that find favour with motorists, making the car the next big app battleground, with productivity apps leading the way.

For example, Microsoft has also signed an in-car productivity deal with Renault-Nissan, while Google is well advanced with its own autonomous vehicle project, and Apple's long-rumoured Project Titan is also believed to be an electric car. Meanwhile, motor companies want to grab revenue from new services as a way of boosting margins.

Not everyone will welcome productivity apps encroaching on one of the few peaceful times of day for some workers, their commute to work.

But the nature of work is increasingly mobile, said Ben Canning, director of product management for Skype for Business at Microsoft. "People need to be productive from anywhere, including their cars," he said. "We're thrilled to extend modern meetings to Volvo cars."

Volvo recently announced plans to test self-driving cars in the UK this year.

More on self-driving cars

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