I’ve seen references to Apple releasing the “iCar” on various Mac/Apple related websites. These rumors have been around for a few months now, and the “reports” on these websites (eg, here) amount to talks breaking down, or something shaking somewhere. In the meantime, Microsoft has successfully launched their in-vehicle telematics system called Sync, and it’s available on all Ford vehicles (it’s an option on the lower end models, but standard on more expensive models).
Sync was developed by Microsoft in conjunction with Ford, and it looks very promising. Sync is completely voice activated, so you can keep your hands on the steering wheel while asking the car to change radio stations, or select a different playlist from your mp3 player, or change the climate control settings, or even make a phone call.
Sync connects to Bluetooth phones and can allow you to make phone calls to people in your phone’s addressbook. You can even send text messages from your phone using Sync. It can even read your text messages aloud.
Media player control
It can also integrate with any mp3 player (iPods, Zunes, etc) and allows you to control your media player while driving. It has useful features to enable you to easily switch to different artists, albums, songs, genre, etc by name. You can also have it play similar music. You can also charge any mp3 player while the car is running, so that’s a useful feature.
Good user experience
I’m surprised that I’ve not seen too much about this product in the blogosphere and most traditional media outlets. Sync has a very small set of features, so it’s not bloated with useless features, and it’s operation is very simple. It’s good to see new products that offer good user experiences, in this case via voice. They chose to leave out lots of extraneous features while delivering a few core features, that make sense in how people will interact with this system in the context of where they are (in a vehicle) and what they are doing (hopefully paying attention to their driving). It will be interesting to see where Microsoft takes this product in it’s next iteration. And it will be interesting to see what other auto manufacturers choose to offer this in their vehicles.
This system is different than in car control systems like BMW’s iDrive, or Porsche’s PCM. There are no navigation controls, or climate controls, or suspension, engine tuning, or suspension settings controls.
More information, videos
Here’s a video of the Sync in operation from Autoline Detroit, which is a great TV show for you car nuts out there. John McElroy is very intelligent, and has a very informative show. If you want to see the show on Sync, click here.
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