When Ford introduced the Sync infotainment system in 2007, it was truly
revolutionary and available only in select vehicles. On May 26 Ford
delivered its 1 millionth Sync-equipped car, a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid,
in the Seattle area.
To celebrate topping the 1 million mark, Ford President and CEO Alan
Mulally personally handed the keys over to its new owner, who happens to
be Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO. Ballmer purchased the hybrid sedan as
well as a new Ford Flex a few weeks earlier from a local dealership.
A joint effort between the automaker and Microsoft, Sync is essentially
a small PC that runs on a version of Windows built for the harsh
automotive environment. It allows a car's stock radio to seamlessly
interface with mobile phones and digital music players, such as an
iPhone or Microsoft Zune. It also lets the driver or passenger verbally
communicate with and control these devices using voice-activation
technology. And since the Sync system is software-based, expanding
capability is as easy as installing a new computer program. And it does
all of this for less than $400.
The Sync system has been a huge success with both the tech-savvy and
tech-challenged crowds, which is why it is now installed in more than 80
percent of Ford vehicles sold in North America.
Last year Sync added two new applications: Vehicle Health Report and 911
Assist. Ford's latest Sync application, Traffic, Directions and
Information, will be available for download this summer. It will provide
personalized traffic reports, driving directions and up-to-date
information, including business listings, news, sports scores and
Ford and Microsoft had a one-year exclusivity agreement, and while the
Sync system remains exclusive to Ford, Microsoft can now partner with
other car companies to expand the technology offering.
Perry Stern's automotive career began 19 years ago as an adviser at a
vehicle consulting firm. One of the original staff members of CarPoint,
Microsoft's automotive Web site that launched in 1995, he became editor
of the site in 2002, which is now known as MSN Autos. Stern has also
contributed to MSNBC and various MSN properties in Canada, Japan and
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