General Motors taps Apple executive to lead software effort

General Motors has hired Apple executive Mike Abbott to head up its software division as the automaker ramps up its efforts to sell "software-defined vehicles" that offer a wide array of capabilities from in-car subscriptions and apps to over-the-air updates and digital services.

Abbott, the former vice president of engineering for Apple's cloud services division, will report to GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra. The official title of this newly created position is executive vice president of software.

Abbott will play a central role in GM's plan to bring software development in house and launch revenue-generating digital services and features for its consumer and commercial customers. Software has become increasingly important in the automotive industry as companies try to attract buyers with so-called "software-defined vehicles" that offer voice, navigation and even third-party apps. Automakers' shift to EVs has only accelerated those efforts as software plays a key role in behind-the-scenes battery management to front-facing features like showing the driver where EV chargers are located.

Abbott will lead the team responsible for that entire software ecosystem. He will oversee three software departments: software-defined vehicle and operating system that is led by Scott Miller, information and digital technology headed up by Stacy Lynett and Edward Kummer's digital business team.

"We have entered the next phase of our technology driven transformation focused on rapidly scaling new EV models and our Ultifi software platform, which will drive faster innovation and enable new and exciting customer experiences," Barra said in a statement. "Mike's experience as a founder and entrepreneur coupled with his proven track record creating and delivering some of the market's most compelling software-defined solutions for consumers and companies make him an excellent fit at GM."

Ultifi is an end-to-end software platform built on top of GM's existing vehicle intelligence platform — the underlying hardware architecture that provides greater data processing power. Ultifi, which is rolling out to some GM brands later this year, brings all of the vehicle's modules to a single platform, making it easier and faster to issue over-the-air software updates and give owners access to subscription services and other in-car tech. Ultifi meant to be integrated alongside Android Automotive, the operating system embedded in some GM infotainment systems. (Android Automotive OS is separate from Android Auto, which is a secondary interface that lies on top of the operating system.)

During his time at Apple, Abbott led the team that developed core infrastructure for all of Apple's cloud-based services, including iCloud iMessage, private relay, mail and account security. His team also created products for Apple's education and enterprise categories.

Abbott was previously general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers focused on investments in mobile and cloud computing, as well as working with entrepreneurs to better leverage social media tools, build teams and increase their funding. Abbott has also led teams responsible for developing applications and services at Twitter, Palm and Microsoft.