4-page Case Study
Posted: 1/24/2013
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BMW Carmaker Delivers Premium Infotainment System in 1 and 3 Series Models with Windows Embedded

BMW drivers expect a premium experience in their cars and the company always delivers. Continuously innovative, the company turned to Continental Corporation to design an affordable infotainment system while maintaining rigorous standards for quality. Powered by Windows Embedded Automotive, the solution offers multimedia entertainment, support for mobile phones, media players, and integration with numerous other embedded systems in the car with a well-supported platform that includes updates for future mobile devices and familiar development tools. The benefits are extended to car aficionados worldwide, who can enjoy easy connectivity with multiple devices and services across the BMW product line.


BMW Group has been manufacturing automobiles and motorcycles since 1917. Today, the company has 100,000 employees, operations in 150 countries, and a history of success and innovation. The company’s premier brands, including BMW, Rolls Royce, and MINI, are recognized worldwide for their performance and engineering excellence. In 2011, the company sold approximately 1.7 million vehicles worldwide and reported €68.8 billion (U.S. $90.82 billion) in gross revenue.

BMW introduced its revolutionary iDrive system in its 7 Series model in 2001. The system provided drivers with a multipurpose console and an LCD display that is used for entertainment, communication, and navigation. As part of its ongoing innovation, the company wanted to update the infotainment system in its smaller 1 and 3 Series models.

BMW required a solution that would be affordable yet still deliver the capabilities that its customers expected. It also wanted to ensure that the quality and content of options offered were standard across all car models. BMW faced the challenge to produce a cost-driven system for a smaller, entry-level car that would have the same quality as the high-end systems in the company’s Series 7 model.

Performance and cost were only part of the picture. Although the company’s strategy is to deliver a consistent user experience across its entire product line, it also wanted a solution flexible enough to adapt to new technology and the needs of individual drivers. BMW wanted to keep pace with the consumer industry by supporting the new phones and media players it saw entering the market each month.

To control costs, BMW planned to install an infotainment system with a smaller CPU and less memory than the systems used in its higher-end vehicles. And to ensure a high level of performance, the company needed an embedded solution that would deliver entertainment features and integrate well with other systems in the car, such as lights and climate controls.

BMW asked Microsoft partner Continental Corporation, a leading manufacturer of automotive products, to design an affordable infotainment system that would include a high-resolution LCD screen, multimedia capabilities, and support for mobile phones and other mobile devices from multiple manufacturers. The company also wanted to make it easy for its customers to update their software to support new media players and mobile devices as they became available in the marketplace.

* Getting everything we needed from Microsoft was really helpful. And it took new developers only a few days to become productive—about three times faster than it took with other solutions. All of these factors helped cut development time and cost.  *

Martin Schmölders
Software Development Manager


In 2008, Continental began designing a new infotainment system powered by the Windows Embedded Automotive operating system. Two years before taking on the BMW project, Continental had switched from an environment based on Java to Windows Embedded Automotive. The company knew that Microsoft provided a better, more comprehensive development ecosystem—one that includes the operating system, automotive extensions, a complete development tool set, and ample support from a single source. “With a Microsoft solution, we could work with one supplier and have everything we needed to build a system,” says Sten-Olaf Wilkening, Director of Marketing, Business Unit Infotainment and Connectivity, Continental Corporation. “Everything was stable, and we always had someone to call if we needed support.”

BMW also looked forward to a solution based on the Windows Embedded product family, which it had already used in previous infotainment systems. As a result, the company could easily reuse the proprietary BMW human machine interface (HMI), which is standard in all its cars. BMW continuously evolves its HMI to incorporate the most current technology and research into driver safety.

Continental could also take advantage of Windows Embedded Automotive development tools, including the Microsoft Visual Studio development system and Platform Builder for Windows Embedded Automotive 7, a Visual Studio plug-in. The solution includes a media library designed for the automotive industry that can be used to index media players and other mobile devices.

Working with Visual Studio and Platform Builder as its primary development tools, Continental completed the project on time in early 2011. BMW began production in July 2011 and launched the new 1 Series cars with the optional infotainment system—called “Radio Professional”—later that year. The Windows Embedded powered infotainment system is also the standard equipment in the new 3 Series model launched in 2012.

The solution includes the Windows Embedded media playback components that support a multitude of devices, including mobile phones and products such as MP3 players and USB mass-storage devices. Drivers can connect devices through USB ports or wirelessly with Bluetooth technology. The solution also has options for Internet connectivity, voice recognition, and hands-free communication.

Drivers use the iDrive controller to manage entertainment, navigation, and climate-control settings, and to obtain vehicle-status information. In addition to enhancing driving enjoyment, the system improves safety. For example, the optional BMW Assist feature combines GPS technology with wireless hands-free communication so that drivers can connect to a specialist to get traffic information or directions, or request help in an emergency.

To update the system to handle new mobile devices, owners can take the vehicle into a dealership, or download updates from the BMW website to a thumb drive. They can then install updates themselves through a USB port on the infotainment system.

The company was surprised to find demand particularly high from 1 Series buyers, who can order the system as an option at an additional cost. Willingness to pay more for an optional feature told BMW that customers saw the system as an added value.


By implementing an infotainment system powered by Windows Embedded Automotive, BMW can provide premium features across its product line. The company has the flexibility it needs to meet its goals, including easy integration of software and technology from multiple vendors. With the new solution, Continental was able to control development costs, and BMW has reduced its risk while enhancing the driving experience for its customers.

Delivers High Quality at Lower Cost

By relying on careful engineering and a solution based on Windows Embedded, BMW can meet its performance goals while reducing hardware costs that would otherwise drive up sticker prices.

With Windows Embedded, BMW achieved the same startup times and fast performance as its other systems that have twice the processing power.

The company can extend the premium BMW infotainment experience to its smaller cars while maintaining high standards of quality, innovation, and performance. This capability allows BMW to offer customers the same infotainment capabilities across all car models.

Increases Flexibility

By taking advantage of Windows Embedded, Continental could easily integrate HMI components developed by BMW, as well as products from other vendors such as an Internet browser and Bluetooth stack. Also, with support from Microsoft, Continental could adapt the platform to BMW requirements and meet all performance targets.

BMW reports that the development and deployment process went smoothly, aided by close cooperation and support from both Continental and Microsoft.

For the project to succeed, BMW needed the ability to customize the solution and make changes to support its car architecture. The company credits support from Continental engineers and a dedicated group of developers at Microsoft in helping it meet those goals.

Cuts Development Cost and Risk

With a solution powered by Windows Embedded, BMW was able to minimize its risk while Continental controlled development time and cost. Windows Embedded Automotive helped BMW minimize risk with its high level of device integration and connectivity with other technologies and services.

And by working in the stable, well-supported environment of Windows Embedded, Continental could bring new developers on board faster and react more quickly to shifting priorities. “Getting everything we needed from Microsoft was really helpful,” says Martin Schmölders, Software Development Manager at Continental. “And it took new developers only a few days to become productive—about three times faster than it took with other solutions. All of these factors helped cut development time and cost.”

Improves Manageability

Drivers can easily update their infotainment systems, which helps BMW improve customer satisfaction and stay on top of marketplace changes. Schmölders says, “With a solution powered by Windows Embedded, the company can offer updates to infotainment systems that customers can easily install themselves without going to a dealer.”

Enhances Driving Experience

With the new solution, the company is carrying its tradition for innovation and performance into the future. As people spend more and more time on the road, they want the same communication and entertainment features they use at home and at work. With Windows Embedded Automotive, BMW can connect drivers to all sorts of services and devices wherever they go.

Windows Embedded

Windows Embedded extends the power of Windows and the cloud to intelligent systems. Encompassing operating systems, tools, and systems and services, Windows Embedded enables enterprises to generate tangible, real-time benefits with anytime, anywhere access to executable data. Microsoft entered the embedded marketplace over 15 years ago and continues to lead the evolution toward intelligent systems with an extensive suite of technologies for enterprises across a variety of industries.

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For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:


For more information about Continental products and services, call +49 6196 872515 or visit the website at:

For more information about BMW Group products and services, call +49 89 38 20 or visit the website at:

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 100000 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Munich, Germany, the BMW Group is a leading global manufacturer of premier cars and motorcycles and sells more than 1.5 million vehicles annually. Its brands include BMW, MINI, and Rolls Royce.


BMW teamed with Continental to implement an infotainment system powered by Windows Embedded Automotive. The solution includes a rich human-machine interface (HMI) developed by BMW.


  • Premium experience at lower cost
  • Minimized risk with ease of integration and improved connectivity
  • Microsoft partner Continental three times more productive
  • Easy updates improve user satisfaction

Software and Services
Windows Embedded Automotive

Vertical Industries
Automotive, Industrial Equipment & Aerospace


Business Need
Cost Containment


Continental Automotive