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LAS VEGAS — Can Microsoft put itself in the driver’s seat in the new world of cars?

After working for more than 15 years in automotive technology, the tech giant will attempt to accelerate its efforts with the launch of a new Connected Vehicle Platform, based on its Azure cloud platform, leveraging Microsoft services including the Cortana voice-based assistant.

Microsoft is announcing the Renault-Nissan Alliance as the first automotive partner for the new platform at the Consumer Electronics Show this afternoon.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn speaks CES. (GeekWire photo / John Cook)

The company has worked with a variety of automakers in the past, including a high-profile partnership with Ford on early versions of the automaker’s SYNC platform. Microsoft also has an existing partnership with Toyota on cloud-based connected car technology, and last year announced new details about partnerships with automakers Nissan and Volvo.

But the new initiative comes at a time of increasing connectivity, automation and competition in the automotive technology market. Amazon, for example, is making headway in cars with its Alexa voice-enabled assistant, advancing its own partnership with Ford this week.

“As you may have gathered, Microsoft is not building its own connected car,” said Peggy Johnson, Microsoft executive vice president of business development, in a post about the new platform. “Instead, we want to help automakers create connected car solutions that fit seamlessly with their brands, address their customers’ unique needs, competitively differentiate their products and generate new and sustainable revenue streams.”

With the new platform, Johnson said, “Microsoft’s cloud will do the heavy lifting by ingesting huge volumes of sensor and usage data from connected vehicles, and then helping automakers apply that data in powerful ways.” The system will incorporate Microsoft services including Cortana, Dynamics, Office 365, Power BI and Skype for Business.

In a press conference at CES, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said that the relationship with Microsoft will help make driving “more productive and seamless.”

Also at CES this week, the company is showing a new connected car demo, partnering with NXP, IAV, Swiss Re, Esri and Cubic Telecom to demonstrate the potential of its connected car technology in a semi-autonomous vehicle. Watch our video of the experience above.

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