Ford ditching Microsoft in favor of BlackBerry QNX for next-gen Sync?

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Ask the average consumer – at least, those who follow the goings-on in the automotive industry – which carmaker they’d most closely associate Microsoft, and the answer you’d most likely get would be Ford. The Blue Oval automaker, after all, was at the forefront of bringing Microsoft technology into cars with its pioneering Sync system, and, though reality didn’t turn out as such, Ford’s CEO was recently touted as a potential future head of the Redmond-based software giant. But that relationship, according to the latest reports, could be coming to an end.

Alan Mullaly kiboshed the idea of leaving Dearborn for Redmond, but more importantly Ford is tipped to be ditching Microsoft in developing its next-generation Sync system. In its place, Ford is expected to partner with BlackBerry’s QNX division.

Now, before you go balking “BlackBerry?! But they’re finished!” consider that QNX is (or at least was) an independent entity that Research In Motion (as BlackBerry’s Ontario-based parent company was then known) just happened to have bought back in 2010. QNX provides control systems to everything from nuclear power plants and UAVs to automakers like Audi, BMW and Porsche.

Ford is apparently keen to improve its in-car technology – an increasingly vital factor for new car buyers – while cutting Microsoft and its comparatively large licensing fees out of the equation.

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford marks 5 million Sync-equipped vehicles over 5 years

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It’s pretty amazing how much in-car technology has advanced in recent years, and Ford’s Sync system has been at the forefront of vehicle connectivity and infotainment. Since its debut on the 2008 Ford Focus, Ford says more than five million of its vehicles have been equipped with Microsoft-developed technology.

Back when Sync was shown off in 2007, smartphones were just in their infancy (the iPhone was unveiled two days later), and Sync allows customers to upgrade their mobile devices without having to replace any equipment inside the vehicle. Over the years, Ford has expanded the technology to include new features such as AppLink that adds Sync-enabled apps-like Pandora, iHeartRadio, Stitcher and Vehicle Health Report.

Down the road, Ford says Sync will get even more personal through the use of cloud computing and vehicle sensor data.

Portland Ford Fusion dealer looks back on 5 years and 5 million Sync-equipped vehicles

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Five years ago, Ford Motor Company and Microsoft came together to launch the benchmark for in-vehicle connectivity systems with the introduction of SYNC. Today at the GigaOM Roadmap Conference, Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas and Microsoft Windows Embedded General Manager Kevin Dallas announced the 5-millionth vehicle equipped with SYNC has been sold and they shared their joint vision for continued leadership in development of the connected car.

“SYNC has helped us evolve as an automaker, to think and act more like a technology company, with a new level of openness and access that has forever changed how we look at our business and respond to our customers,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation. “Ultimately, SYNC embodies what Ford is all about: going further to transform innovative ideas into products that are affordable, attainable and valuable to millions of people.”

When Ford and Microsoft first initiated the collaboration in 2005, the engineering teams recognized that mobile electronics were quickly becoming an increasingly important part of people’s lives as cell phones and digital media players. Considering how quickly mobile device usage had grown in just the previous few years, the development team decided a new development approach was needed going forward.

“Thanks to our partner Microsoft and their expertise, we have turned the car into a platform with extensive opportunities for developers to work with us to continue to add value through new features delivered at the speed consumers now expect,” continued Mascarenas. “With more than 1 billion smartphones now in service around the world, we expect mobile connectivity will continue to be the foundational element of our strategy going forward.”

“We’ve worked with Ford on SYNC right from the start,” said Kevin Dallas, general manager of Windows Embedded, Microsoft Corp. “Taking a platform approach enabled us to move quickly and deliver an innovative solution unlike any in the industry while providing us the flexibility to continue to deliver new features and improvements to Ford customers.”

While cars and trucks typically stay on the road for more than 10 years on average, people often replace their consumer electronics every couple of years to keep pace with the latest advances in technology.

The SYNC development team created an architecture based on the Windows Embedded Automotive platform that took advantage of open protocols like USB and Bluetooth® to enable virtually any device to be connected for media playback and communications. That decision turned out to be more prescient than anyone on the team could have imagined.

When SYNC was first announced on Jan. 7, 2007 at the International CES, the presentation featured the iPod, Motorola RAZR flip-phone and Palm TREO smartphone. Just two days later, Apple began a mobile phone revolution and the beginning of the app economy with the announcement of the original iPhone. When customers began driving the first car available with SYNC, the 2008 Focus, in fall of that year, most were using SYNC to make hands-free calls using their feature phones and play back music from iPods with simple voice commands powered by Nuance voice recognition technology.

Five years on, there are smartphones powered by a diverse range of platforms including iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone mobile operating systems. With ample on-board storage, processing power that rivals desktop computers from five years ago and fast wireless data connections, these phones still work with those original SYNC-equipped vehicles. They can also power new available capabilities on most Ford vehicles like AppLink™, 911 Assist®, Vehicle Health Report and SYNC Services, a cloud-based service network including traffic reports, turn-by-turn directions, business search, news and sports scores and movie listings.

“Now, it’s clear that building an open, upgradable connectivity platform has been key to the success of SYNC because it has allowed us to stay relevant to the consumer,” said Mascarenas. “With available SYNC, Ford vehicles are no longer stuck with the technology built in at the factory, they can keep pace with the latest consumer trends through simple software updates.”

Ford was ranked first in ABI Research’s OEM connected automotive infotainment Competitive Assessment, with high ratings for implementation, innovation, and price.

With 5 million SYNC-equipped vehicles on the road and the system just beginning to launch in Europe and Asia, Ford and Microsoft, along with Nuance, are always working on new enhancements that can keep customers on the leading edge of in-car technology.

“At Microsoft, we’re now focused on how data and connectivity can turn devices into intelligent systems that enable insight-driven action,” said Dallas. “In the vehicle, this means the ability to connect to more data from more sources and use it to help the driver. Together with Ford, we’re helping them turn the connected vehicle into an intelligent vehicle.”

Cloud connectivity, on-board sensors and data access are key components for creating this kind of intelligent vehicle experience. Other advances, such as natural language processing and machine learning, could help SYNC provide a more natural interaction between car and driver, enabling a driving experience that’s more personalized and convenient.

“The car is a rich source of real-time data and when combined with the processing power available in the cloud, it could become the smartest device you will ever own,” adds Mascarenas.

 

Roximity location-based deal provider app launches with a friend in Ford [w/video]

Wouldn’t it be great if your car alerted you to nearby deals as you drove by them? Austin Gayer and Danny Newman’s Roximity app will appeal to you, then. The duo explains it as “a location-based alert system that allows merchants to sign up for geo-aware location deals.” In other words, when you’re near a place offering a deal, you get an alert on your iPhone, and since Roximity is integrating with Ford Sync, that functionality extends to Ford cars and trucks as well.

Roximity was the winning app developed during the Ford Sync App Developer Challenge at the 2011 TechCrunch Distrupt Hackathon in San Francisco. What makes it different from other deal sites, like Groupon, is that you can better tailor the deals to your interest. This way you won’t get deals for vegan dining if all you want is updates on bacon cheeseburgers. Watch the video to see Gayer and Newman explain their app firsthand.

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford attends Facebook Hackathon to create The Social Car

We are a social bunch here at your Portland Ford dealer, Dick’s Mackenzie Ford in Hillsboro. We have a facebook page and keep up on all the social media trends. The good folks at Ford are also a social bunch!

The people at Ford have been facilitating social connections for more than a century. Just as Facebook wasn’t the first social network, Ford didn’t produce the first car. But, what Henry Ford and his team did was take a smarter approach by creating reliable and affordable transportation that put millions of people on the road around the world, thereby connecting more people with each other.

The mobility enabled by the car allowed people to get together with friends and family over greater distances and with more frequency than ever before, a trend that has continued to evolve for more than 100 years.

And now, Facebook is redefining what it means to socially connect by offering hundreds of millions of people the ability to connect with their friends, family and other interesting people, no matter where in the world they are.

In fact these online connections have become so pervasive that many young people are more interested in having a data-enabled smartphone than a driver’s license. Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst for Gartner, recently told the New York Times, “Mobile devices, gadgets and the Internet are becoming must-have lifestyle products that convey status. In that sense these devices offer a degree of freedom and social reach that previously only the automobile offered.”

While not everyone is more interested in Facebook than driving just yet, the trend is clear that people are connecting and sharing online more than ever. Researchers and developers at Ford understand that customers are increasingly bringing that online social experience into their car via the smartphone.

In order to explore what these converging trends mean to the customer, Ford and Facebook engineers got together and held a 24-hour “Hackathon” at Facebook’s Palo Alto campus looking at ways to socialize the car. The teams of hackers worked through the night to prototype some ideas that were demonstrated to the entire group at the end of the event. The best of those ideas are now being further developed in Ford’s Dearborn labs.

Over the past five years, Ford has enhanced mobile connections with the award-winning SYNC® connectivity system that is now installed in more than 4 million vehicles. SYNC lets drivers listen to their favorite tunes, answer calls, get directions and more using simple voice commands while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel, providing a safer solution for the smartphone revolution that is now being brought into our cars.

Today, SYNC is great if you know what song you want to listen to or where you want to go. But what if you want to expand your audio, cultural or culinary horizons? While Facebook enables people to stay in touch with their friends, the social content generated by users actually makes it far more than just a simple communications tool.

Imagine if SYNC could leverage all of the information from you and your friends put on your Facebook timelines to make your drive more personalized? Instead of just asking for a nearby restaurant list from your navigation system, the restaurants presented could actually be ones that have been “liked” by your friends. Or you could ask if your friends are nearby and request navigation to their location. How about listening to the same stream of music that your friends are “DJ’ing” from the comfort of their own home?

And, why shouldn’t your car work for you to make your life more convenient? If you’re on your way to an appointment and running late, SYNC could automatically notify your friends with an estimated time of arrival. Then, upon arrival, SYNC would automatically “check-in” to your location.

When someone is behind the wheel, the first priority will always be to remain focused on driving and making it safely to your destination. But, at a time when consumers are starting to prioritize Internet access over access to a car, we need to explore what that means for car ownership. By safely blending Facebook connections with the power of SYNC, Ford could extend the social experience and use it to once again revolutionize your time behind the wheel.

You can find the full line of new Ford in Portland at Portland Ford dealer, Dick’s Mackenzie Ford in Hillsboro. We are part of Dick’s Auto Group.