By Frederic Lardinois
At GigaOm’s Roadmap event today, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Ford (NYSE:F) just announced that they have delivered more than 5 million SYNC-enabled cars. SYNC, Ford’s in-car connectivity system, is powered by Microsoft’s embedded platform and launched about five years ago. While it had its ups and downs, Ford is quite committed to the platform and plans to open it up to more developers over time. Looking ahead, the two companies also plan to expand their collaboration by fusing cloud computing and the car’s sensor data.
Connecting The Car To The Cloud
“At Microsoft, we’re now focused on how data and connectivity can turn devices into intelligent systems that enable insight-driven action,” said Kevin Dallas, Microsoft’s General Manager for Windows Embedded today. “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.”
The Cars As A Platform
Interestingly, Ford has generally downplayed its relationship with Microsoft (or at least not pushed it), so it’s interesting to see both Microsoft and Ford on stage together, talking about the future of the connected car and Microsoft posting its own press release about this milestone.
Going forward, however, the focus of SYNC will likely become its role as a platform, and that will likely push Microsoft’s role in this partnership more into the forefront. Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas, for example, notes in a statement today how working with Microsoft allowed Ford to turn 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.” Indeed, for Mascarenas, the car will just become another device on users’ shared data plans in the future.
As Dallas also noted in a canned statement today, “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.”
With SYNC AppLink and other initiatives, including the cool, but very experimental, OpenXC project, Ford is looking at how it can bring more apps and services to the car and offer an open platform, while still ensuring the drivers don’t get distracted by all of this technology in their cars. The focus here for both Microsoft and Ford is to help users bring their existing technology to their cars and connect it to them.
While cars usually stay on the road for about 10 years, consumer electronics move way faster, so allowing users to bring their own hardware to the car is something that Ford is focusing on. Upgradable software, Mascarenas also noted at Roadmap, is something very new for the automotive industry, but also something that is “very key to the user experience.”