"If they have their own skunk works and they find a new technology, they are guaranteed to bring it to market first," he says.
Ford, for instance, worked with Microsoft Inc. on its pioneering Sync system, which brought voice activation technology into cars ahead of most competitors. But Ford only had exclusive use of the system for a year before Microsoft was able to license it to other companies, namely Hyundai and Kia.
Outside companies have so much expertise that it will take years for GM to catch up, making it unlikely that the company will completely walk away from outside firms, Robinet says.
Yet with software gaining so much importance in the way all companies operate, it's even possible that GM will find its next generation of leaders somewhere in the computer centers, says Kirkpatrick.
"CEOs of every company in the future are going to have to be software thinkers," he says.
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