Posted by Cliff Weathers, Consumer Reports
At today's Detroit auto show, Ford was the recipient of much hype and star power when it introduced its Sync collaboration with Microsoft.
Old-money Ford chairman Bill Ford trotted out new-money Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on a satellite link from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to introduce the system, which should provide seamless integration between vehicles and various electronic gadgets, such as Bluetooth phones and digital audio players.
A mobile phone's telephony features, like address books, ringers, and speed dialing, are integrated through your vehicle's driver interaction system. The phone's voice recognition system can make them all hands free. Digital audio players, which will hook up through a USB port, will display their menu functions on the driver interaction screen and play through the audio system. (We hope they'll feature Bluetooth in the near future.) Even USB jump drives loaded with music will play on the car's audio system through the USB port.
But while Ford was making its big splash with this mobile device gateway, automotive supplier Johnson Controls quietly introduced practically the same thing in a small conference room upstairs in Cobo Hall.
Johnson says it is in talks with several automakers that are interested in this kind of connectivity and it might be found in production cars within a few years. So, don't think Ford has a better idea; it has a good idea that many others in the industry have had as well. No news yet as to whether the band *NSYNC will be endorsing either technology.