Ford, Microsoft in 'Sync' with in-car digital system

It allows drivers to connect personal electronics to their vehicles

Ford Motor Co. has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to launch a new factory-installed, in-car communications and entertainment system.

The Ford-exclusive technology -- based on Microsoft Auto software called Sync -- allows users to operate just about any mobile phone or digital media player using voice commands or the vehicle's steering wheel or radio controls, according to the companies. The devices connect via Bluetooth for wireless connection of phones, including those that play music, or via a USB 2.0 port for command and control and charging of digital media players, according to the statement.

Sync seamlessly integrates the vehicle with popular portable electronic devices and is upgradeable to support future devices and services, according to the companies.

Sync will debut this calendar year on the 2008 Ford Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred, Edge, Freestyle, Explorer and Sport Trac; the Mercury Milan, Montego and Mountaineer; and the Lincoln MKX and MKZ. The technology will eventually be incorporated on all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles in the near future, according to the statement.

Sync features include the following:

  • Voice-activated, hands-free calling: Users simply press the "Push to Talk" button on the steering wheel and then say the name of the person they're calling. Sync will automatically connect using the names in the mobile phone's contact list.
  • Uninterrupted connections: There's 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 can also translate such commonly used text messaging expressions as "LOL." The system also allows a user to reply with 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 shown 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.
  • Instant voice recognition: Sync's advanced voice recognition technology means a user can operate his phone or digital music player with simple voice commands.
  • Ring-tone support: For supported phones, Sync will play personal ring tones and unique ring tones to identify specific callers automatically.
  • Automatic phone-book transfer: Sync will automatically and wirelessly transfer the names and numbers in a mobile phone book.
  • Multilingual intelligence: Sync understands English, French and Spanish.
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