News From CES: M'Soft, Ford Unveil Sync

DN Staff

January 10, 2007

2 Min Read
News From CES: M'Soft, Ford Unveil Sync

LAS VEGAS — If you still aren't ready for e-mail and Internet browsers in your car's front seat, then you needn't worry. Microsoft and Ford Motor Co. officially unveiled "Sync" at the Consumer Electronics Show here this week, and despite early reports, the new vehicle operating system isn't about the Internet. Rather, it's an operating system that serves as a foundation for consumers — particularly young consumers — enabling them to bring their mobile devices into the vehicle. Its first embodiment will be in the low-cost Ford Focus, where Ford executives expect iPod equipped consumers to start hooking up.

"We tried to take consumer devices that people use in the office and in the gym, and seamlessly integrate them into the car," notes Scott Porter, lead program manager for Microsoft Auto.

As it turns out, Sync serves a combination of technologies from the communications and entertainment worlds.
It includes standards for Bluetooth, so that drivers can sync a hands-free wireless ear piece with their phones. It also works with USB sticks, iPods, and Microsoft Zune players. It also can display mobile phone text messages on screen, another sign that Ford and Microsoft engineers were thinking of young adults and teens with their new entry.

Sync's emphasis on the front seat, however, doesn't mean that Microsoft has forgotten its earlier devotion to the Internet in the vehicle. Also at the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft executives showed Ford luxury vehicles equipped with back-seat Internet capabilities. 

"Ford Sync has chosen not to implement Internet browsing or e-mail, but the Microsoft Auto platform does allow it," Porter says.  "Internet browsing is a rich activity. It's a good rear-seat activity."

At the show, Microsoft teamed with, demonstrating Internet browsing on a display mounted in the back side of a front-seat head rest. Showgoers could access the Internet through the display, or could simply use their fingers to trace an "M" on the screen to listen to rear-seat music, or a "V" for rear-seat video. software (not Sync) served as the enabler for that rear-seat access.The system also offered users the ability to download videos or music from a makeshift "gas pump" located on the show floor. Internet browsing was done with a mouse and keyboard. 

"Nowadays, people are becoming more and more dependent on Internet connections," notes Matthew Pace of, who demonstrated the system at the show. "It's more than a novelty."  

The new rear-seat strategy could be proof that the "Internet on wheels" concept that caused telematics to struggle five years ago is still alive and well today. Earlier failures notwithstanding, Microsoft execs and others at the show say that the arrival of the Internet in the vehicle is still inevitable. 

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