Ford's SYNC system is winning friends left and right, with CNET giving it the nod as Coolest New Car Tech and The Detroit News calling it "the best $395 option of 2007". Sales of the Ford Focus, in which the system debuted, are up 22.5% this year, despite the car's iffy redesign. According to Ford, consumers are choosing to add SYNC to their cars two to one over those who skip it, and Microsoft, which supplies the software to run SYNC, has noticed this popularity. The software giant from Redmond has pretty big plans for its Automotive Business Unit beyond supporting Ford's SYNC system, and hopes to give its software system "daily relevance" within five years by networking infotainment systems with each other. A local search function, for instance, could offer multiple possible routes based on up-to-the-minute information gathered from the network.
All of these upgrades need to be paid for somehow, and Martin Thall, the General Manager of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit, has suggested that they may integrate advertisements into the infotainment system as opposed to charging subscription fees like General Motors does with its OnStar service. After all, you hear ads on your radio and pass by billboards every time you get in your car, right? Would serving up advertisements or coupons to Starbucks while you're driving be a distraction, though? They better think this through carefully.