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BizReport : Trends & Ideas archives : January 03, 2007

Microsoft Pimping Ford's Ride

Ford and Microsoft will unveil their new in-vehicle operating system at upcoming U.S. car shows.

by Helen Leggatt

The system, dubbed “Sync”, is a Windows-based in-car information, navigation and entertainment system. It will enable drivers to perform key communication functions such as hands-free cell phone calls, downloading music, automatic navigation, up- and download of content and receiving e-mail.

For marketers, Sync brings new meaning to the phrase “captive audience” as many of us spend hours a day behind the wheel of our car. For drivers it means there’s no escape from the boss, clients or the advertisers.

And how will consumers embrace MS Windows driving their in-car technology? The old jokes such as if Bill Gates built cars “owner's handbooks would have over 1300 pages and weigh over 3 pounds” or “the oil, engine, gas and alternator warning lights would be replaced with a single "General Car Fault" warning light” may now be closer to the truth. Imagine the horror of a blue screen of death on the highway or the complexity of hitting CTR ALT DEL as your airbag asks “are you sure you want to activate?”.

On a more serious note, how Sync will affect driving performance and safety is a potential hot potato. The auto industry is already expressing concerns about the increasing number of distractions drivers are experiencing while behind the wheel.

Ford and Microsoft are expected to reveal the Sync project during press days at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which begins this Sunday, and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which opens to the press on Saturday. According to the Microsoft Automotive homepage "Microsoft Windows-powered technology is enabling the in-car computing scenarios in 60 pre-installed, dealer option, and aftermarket devices from 18 world-class automakers and suppliers."

Microsoft spokesman, Chris Elliott, told the Wall Street Journal that the company has been working with Ford on certain technologies and will have an announcement at the shows, but declined to comment on specifics.

Tags: automobile industry, Ford, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Chuck Hildebrandt

    One of the things I wonder about is, how are drivers going to engage in email, downloading music, uploading content, etc., without running their cars off the road? People appear to have enough trouble simply managing phone calls while they drive. Often, when I see someone acting erratically on the road, such as drifting-and-swerving or inexplicably slowing down on the open road -- you know, the kind of things you might normally associate with drinking/drugging then driving -- once I pass by them I see they are engaged in a phone call instead.

    As a driver, this development makes me nervous. I wonder whether this situation will be addressed by government, since I don't envision the marketplace moving to address this themselves, at least voluntarily.



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