Ford, Microsoft get in Sync on in-car tech

The companies announce plans for a new in-car entertainment system that will start showing up on new cars later this year.

LAS VEGAS--Ford Motor and Microsoft on Saturday announced plans for a new in-car entertainment system that will start showing up on new cars later this year.

Dubbed Ford Sync, the system uses Microsoft's Auto software and allows drivers to dial their cell phone and have their text messages read to them through voice commands. Drivers will also be able to use voice commands or steering wheel buttons to play music stored on a portable device including Apple Computer's iPod and Microsoft's Zune as well as other MP3 players and even USB flash drives.

Sync will show up on a dozen Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models this fall and is planned to be an option throughout the company's line in the 2009 model year. It is expected to cost several hundred dollars.

One of the key selling points, the companies say, is that the system is designed to support an array of technology, including products that have yet to be developed.

"Sync is what today's generation and today's drivers demand in connectivity," Ford group Vice President Derrick Kuzak said in a statement. "Not only does it offer hands-free phone operation and iPod, Zune or MP3 player connectivity, it's built on a software platform that is upgradeable and will allow us to offer new features by simply upgrading the software."

Ford is showing the technology at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, while Microsoft is expected to tout Sync at the Consumer Electronics Show here.

Microsoft has been touting in-car technology for years, largely based on its Windows CE operating system. Bill Gates has touted Microsoft's auto efforts in past Consumer Electronics Show keynotes , and predicted in June 2003 that within three years, Microsoft's Windows CE technology would be in 30 percent of new cars .

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