• Jul 4, 2007

At Ford's recent 2008 product information event, the Blue Oval showed that it's catching up to the competition on many fronts, including powertrains, interior quality, and overall refinement. The fact is, the folks over in Dearborn are playing catch-up vs. the competition, and in some ways Ford has a lot of work ahead of it. One area where the automaker's been lacking was with regards to iPod compatibility and integration in its vehicles, but with Microsoft's Sync technology rolling out for 2008, Ford's ready to jump to the head of the class.

We sat down with representatives from Ford and Microsoft during our recent trip to Dearborn, and we got an in-depth walkthrough of Ford's multimedia initiative. Sync integrates MP3 players and Bluetooth phones into the stereo system to give drivers greater flexibility to their digital assets. One very exciting aspect of Sync is that high-end stereo and nav systems aren't needed to use the technology. Sync will be standard on all Lincoln models and available as an option on most Fords and Mercurys for MY 2008. During our demo, we saw a Zune player (like we said, it's Microsoft) plugged into the audio jack inside the armrest storage area, plus a Blackberry device connected via Bluetooth, all running through the stereo. More on Microsoft's and Ford's Sync software, as well as an in-depth demonstration video is available after the jump.

Songs, artists, and genre can be selected off the MP3 player by voice command via the "Push to Talk" button on the steering wheel controls. This feature worked very well, as evidenced in the video, but if you ask for a song or artist that doesn't reside on your MP3 player, Sync gives you the song or artist that sounds most like the one you asked for. We'd have preferred it if Sync came up with nothing vs. a guess that's likely wrong. Due to shortcomings of Bluetooth technology, Sync had trouble accessing MP3 music from phones, but the folks at Microsoft say that a fix is on the way.

Using Sync with a Bluetooth-enabled phone allows for easy hands-free calling. Sync takes in all your contacts, and if you try to call any one of your saved contacts that have multiple numbers, it asks you which one you want. Users can also receive text messages and select from a few canned messages to return the text. The onboard computer reads the message to you, deciphering all text shortcuts like "LOL." During the demo, we were promised that users can also access Internet radio on Sync provided the phone has the capability to get online, but we didn't see it for ourselves.

We found the Sync system to be easy to use during our limited time with it, and the voice recognition software was quite impressive. Other OEMs are offering onboard hard drives and software that's integrated with navigation systems, but the options are generally priced out of range for many in the highly-coveted 18-29 demographic. Ford says Sync will be both affordable and widely available (we don't have specific pricing or availability yet), and that will likely be key to its success. We don't believe many people will switch away from an import just because of Sync, but for tech-savvy buyers sitting on the fence between Ford and the competition, the features of Sync might help win Ford a few more customers. Check out the video above and let us know if you think Sync is something you'd want in your next vehicle.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      This stuff should be cheap. Computers, hard drive storage, USB and bluetooth are all cheap. LCD screens are not so cheap ($200+) but they're getting there, and carmakers would get volume discounts... if you want to see cars talking to cellphones and iPods, head over to mp3car.com's forums.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Fantastic...
      • 7 Years Ago
      its important for ford to have a bluetooth cellphone system. more and more states are making it illegal talk without a handsfree setup. in january 08, the largest car market, california, will make this switch. this is not some gimicky fad, all cars will have this option before not too long.

      all the music and blackberry/smartphone integration is cool too but its the cellphone situation that makes this much more of necessity than it might seem at first.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Actually, that was a T-mobile dash (Windows Mobile) phone, not a blackberry. It would have been a better demo to show it with a blackberry, as it would be something wasn't Microsoft in the car. However, it did look like he did do some of it with a Motorola Razer.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The device that was paired with the vehicle was a Razr. He was using the Dash to send messages as if he were a third party not in the vehicle.

        I wonder if there are any additional features if you pair a Windows mobile device (like the Dash) to the Sync system?
      • 7 Years Ago
      The Apple fanboy has no trouble backing a company that makes the single most closed and proprietary computers, software and gadgets on the planet but then bashes Microsoft for being a monopoly. Buy a clue already. I just hope we see this show up as an option in all cars soon. I'd definitely pay for it. Good job Ford!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Look at all the people trashing Microsoft. The best part is they are using the "its garbage" and "crap" argument yet they dominate their market. At the same time people use the argument that Toyota is great at what they do and thats why they dominate their market. So I guess Microsoft must be pretty good at what they are doing using the Toyota logic, right?
        • 7 Years Ago
        For some reason peole have always tended to hate market leaders. GM, Walmart, Microsoft, McDonalds, etc. Maybe it's some sort of unconscious effort to reinforce their identity - "I don't buy into the mainstream so I'm different and special" or something. That's why so many people love Apple, buy unreliable Land Rovers and drinks $4 coffee's. The status conscious today don't buy products, they buy 'lifestyles'.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Comparing Microsoft and Toyota makes no sense whatsoever. They came across their market success in totally opposite ways.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Mercedes teams with Apple, so Ford teams with Microsoft. Brilliant! That will be marketing at it's finest...

      "We took one mediocre product and combined it with another... introducing the breakthrough - FoMoWindow!"
        • 7 Years Ago
        First of all Sync came first. Second I'd much rather see Ford and Microsoft versus Mercedes and Apple. Mercedes is pretty well know for poor quality. While Apple is great with design, their products are poorly engineered at best. Most techies won't touch Apple stuff with a ten foot pole. Not to say that Microsoft is much better, but Sync looks like it's pretty reliable. We'll probably have to wait until it becomes widely available to see. My guess is a lot of other car companies will adopt this technology once it's no longer Ford exclusive.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Personally I wouldn't touch the Mercedes with a ten foot pole and the analogy would make much more sense had they announced their deal with BMW. My point was to compare Ford and Microsoft, there's a whole lot of them and they generally suck.

        "Their [Apple's] products are poorly engineered at best."

        I respectfully disagree. Do you have anything to substantiate that claim or do you just not like Apple? If it's the latter just say that, that's your preference. I am a "techie," but I learned a long time ago that trying to switch people is usually a waste of breath. All I know is since I have taken over the technology department at my organization the departments that have been switched to the Mac have seen down-time decrease and productivity increase compared to those departments still running XP on Dells.

        For me Microsoft is nothing more than a necessary evil that has paid my bills for many years. Of course others in the field will support something that garners a guaranteed paycheck. I'm just lucky enough to have an Executive Director that's a Mac fan.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dearborn FTW !!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      looks like a good execution but in my mind, just easier ways to add more clutter to keep the masses from paying attention to the road and other drivers.

      and this from a gadget geek.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is cool. I have generally liked ford cars and have just been converted to apple after years of mindlessly using windows only because I didnt know any better. Even so, I am really glad that this is basically universal for mp3 players because I will NOT buy an ipod with its propietary accessory hookups. I hope it will be available in a fusion or mustang :)
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think it's pretty cool. I also like the fact that I can use whatever cell service I have with it; not just one type of service that Ford has a prearranged deal with.
      Very well done, Ford.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I bought a Prius two months ago partly because of all the technology features available. If Sync were available on the Escape Hybrid at the time I would have had a much harder time making my choice.
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