UPDATE: The above video does a much better job of showing you what Sync does than we do explaining it.

Microsoft and Ford have teamed to produce Ford Sync, a new in-car system that offers comprehensive, seamless integration with Bluetooth-enabled phones and a variety of digital music players. A USB port in the car accepts a variety of music players including the ubiquitious iPod, the Zune (surely you didn't think Microsoft would leave out their new toy), PlaysForSure devices, and many USB mass-storage units. Formats supported include MPC, AAC, WMA, WAV and PCM. As the market evolves and new formats are introduced, support for them will be a software upgrade away.

The Bluetooth connection will automatically import your cell phone's address book to the Ford Sync, which will allow the driver to make handsfree calls using voice commands. It also allows drivers to stay on a call they began outside the car by pressing a wheel-mounted button that activates Ford Sync's Bluetooth connection. For supported phones, personalization features such as custom and caller-specific ringtones will continue to work in-car. In addition, text messages will be read to the driver by the system, which will know to translate common text shorthand like "LOL" to proper verbiage.

Follow the jump for more information and Ford's official press release and click here for the official site.

Check out all the debuts and galleries from the Detroit Auto Show here.


The Bluetooth features are nice, but the primary functions are nothing new. The system gets far more interesting on the entertainment side, where connected players' music libraries will be browsable via voice commands. Drivers need only to state an artist, song, album or genre name to have it start playing. It's all in the name of handsfree, low-distraction infotainment, which will become progressively more important as more states adopt laws restricting what drivers are allowed to actively monkey with in their cars. For our part, we welcome anything that lets us rid ourselves of RF transmitters and wired connections for our portable music players. Ford Sync does this and then some, eliminating the need to fumble with the devices entirely. On paper, it appears to be the most elegant solution offered yet from any manufacturer. We're looking forward to a full hands-onoff test.

It'll debut on selected 2008 models and ultimately be available in all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles later on. Check out the full press release below.


PRESS RELEASE:

FORD SYNC ™ FORD AND MICROSOFT TEAM UP TO DELIVER IN-CAR DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM

Ford Motor Company and Microsoft are launching a new factory-installed, in-car communications and entertainment system that is designed to change the way consumers use digital media players and mobile phones in their vehicles.

The Ford-exclusive technology, called Sync, provides consumers the convenience and flexibility to bring into their vehicle nearly any mobile phone or portable music player and operate it using voice commands or the vehicle's steering wheel or radio controls.

Because Sync is fully upgradeable, Ford owners will never need to worry about whether their car or truck is compatible with the latest phone or music player that hits the market.

"Sync delivers on today's needs and, more importantly, anticipates what future drivers will demand in seamless connectivity," says Derrick Kuzak, group vice president, Global Product Development. "Not only does it offer hands-free phone operation and iPod®, ZuneTM 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."

Sync offers consumers two ways to bring electronic devices into their Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles and operate them seamlessly through voice commands or steering wheel controls: • Bluetooth, for wireless connection of phones and phones that play music. • A USB 2.0 port for command and control and charging of digital media players – including the Apple iPod and Microsoft Zune – as well as "Plays for Sure" music devices and most USB media storage devices. Supported formats include MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and PCM.

"Ford and Microsoft share a vision for a future where drivers are safely connected to the people, information and entertainment they care about while they are on the road," said Bill Gates, chairman, Microsoft Corporation. "Built on Microsoft Auto technology, Ford Sync delivers an in-car system that is an important step toward achieving this vision."

Sync features:
  • Voice-activated, hands-free calling: Simply press the "Push to Talk" button on the steering wheel, and then say the name of the person you wish to call. Sync will automatically connect with the names in the mobile phone's contact list.
  • Uninterrupted connections: No need to hang up in the middle of a cell phone call as you enter your vehicle. Simply touch the Telephone Button on the steering wheel, and Sync will instantly connect to a Bluetooth phone.
  • Audible text messages: Sync will convert text messages from your phone to audio and read them out loud. The system is even smart enough to translate such commonly used text messaging expressions as "LOL" and : ). You can choose to reply from any of 20 predefined responses.
  • Advanced calling features: Sync includes the same features offered on mobile phones, including caller ID, call waiting, conference calling, a caller log, a list of contacts, a signal strength icon, and a phone battery charge icon – all conveniently located on the radio's display screen.
  • Voice-activated music: Browse the music collection on your digital media player, mobile phone or USB drive by genre, album, artist and song title using simple voice commands, such as "Play genre Rock," "Play ," or "Play Track ."
  • Instant voice recognition: Sync's advanced voice recognition technology means when you're ready to use your phone or digital music player, just speak simple voice commands.
  • Ring tone support: For supported phones, Sync will play personal ring tones. If you've configured unique ring tones to identify specific callers, Sync will automatically play those, too.
  • Automatic phonebook transfer: Sync will wirelessly transfer all the names and numbers in a mobile phonebook automatically.
  • Multilingual intelligence: Sync is fluent in English, French and Spanish.