By on February 23, 2014

As automakers seek out technology partners for their on-board electronic devices, Ford is leaving Microsoft by the side of the road for a variant of BlackBerry’s QNX-based operating system in future updates to the Blue Oval’s long-suffering SYNC/MyFord Touch infotainment systems.

Road & Track and The Detroit News report the move would bring them in-line with Hyundai, Kia, BMW and Audi, all of whom already use the real-time embedded OS in a wide range of systems beyond infotainment, including driver assistance and active noise control. Chrysler’s UConnect System also uses QNX on its 8.4″ system, and is widely praised for its excellent user experience.

Though BlackBerry, QNX and Ford remain mum on the subject, Ford spokeswoman Susannah Wesley said the automaker would continue to work with Microsoft in spite of the impending move:

Ford works with a variety of partners and suppliers to develop and continuously improve our in-car connectivity systems for customers. We do not discuss details of our work with others for competitive reasons. We are absolutely committed to leading and innovating the smart technologies and in-vehicle connectivity that our customers want and value.

The Blue Oval’s infotainment systems have experienced the lash from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates as of late due to poor user experience, which also prompted the automaker to replace more of the systems’ touchscreen controls with physical in-car controls.

No word on when the QNX-powered systems will make their debut, though Ford made no mention of Microsoft or QNX during introductions of the 2015 F-150 and Mustang, nor was Microsoft brought up during the automaker’s 2014 CES appearances.

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112 Comments on “Ford Leaves Microsoft For BlackBerry In Future SYNC Updates...”


  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    About time! This is the one good decision Ford has made in an extremely long time. I don’t expect it to keep up.

    But good news. The current electronic software in their appliances is absolute garbage. Dumping MS is the first step to fixing that.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Microsoft (and Sync itself) isn’t the problem. It’s Ford’s own layer (MyTouch) on top of Sync that’s at the root of the problem.

      I do expect that a switch to a new OS will come with a complete rewrite, though.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Ford didn’t develop MFT in house. It was farmed out to the lowest bidder (not microsoft), twice, IIRC. It is FUBAR, IMO.

        Given all the talk here recently about ‘extreme programing,’ MFT may be the poster child for the results of such a method. Ford was so intent on delivering a minimum viable product, they concentrated more on the minimum and not enough in the viable.

        • 0 avatar

          Looks like a RIMjob to me…

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Ahem..::RIM-shot w/cymbal hit::!! ;-)

            RIM’d better do SOMETHING..heaven knows they’re doing a death spiral around the porcelain fixture now!

          • 0 avatar

            RIM was fatally shot by Apple.
            Their arrogance in not dropping their own firmware and using Android was their last nail in the coffin.
            Android or Apple…there is no room for a 3rd OS. Everything else can simply sit in obscurity.

          • 0 avatar
            Jim Z

            Android isn’t a panacea; you become a little fish swimming in a big pond. As it is, it appears Samsung is the only one making money on Android hardware.

          • 0 avatar
            calgarytek

            bigtruckseriesreview@youtube

            I disagree with your assessment of Apple/Android. RIM ventured outside of their core market (commercial, government applications) and could not compete with Apple/Android’s offerings. Neither Apple or Android offer a secure enough operating platform that satisfies requirements of government/commercial entities (think security). QNX (owned by RIM) is used in a huge amount of real time systems (think aircraft, space shuttles). Hell, they even use it in your beloved CRAPSLER products. It’s the only quality component the brand has to offer in their otherwise GARBAGE vehicles…

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            “Neither Apple or Android offer a secure enough operating platform that satisfies requirements of government/commercial entities (think security).”

            Which is why most corporations continue to issue Blackberry phones to management instead of Android and Apple phones; including the one I work for.

          • 0 avatar
            bryanska

            You have to reach around the shifter for the update. Someone’s going to get a pink slip for this.

            Ford is tight lipped.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            QNX, or some variant thereof, is used in the nuclear power industry for some applications.

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          Basically all in-vehicle infotainment except for Tesla is a big steaming pile of bullFAIL. Clunky, fragmented between MYs, laggy, ugly, it all sucks. MFT, MyLink, iDrive, CUE, it all just f–king sucks donkey balls. Except Tesla. Their interface looks like it was designed by software architects that have designed interfaces before, rather than kludged together by the lowest bidding OEM supplier and the Indians they outsourced it to.

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        “Microsoft (and Sync itself) isn’t the problem. It’s Ford’s own layer (MyTouch) on top of Sync that’s at the root of the problem.”

        Oh believe me, MS had a hand in it.

        But yes, Ford could be handed something that works perfectly and completely ruin it.

        Much like the Navistar PowerStroke 6.0 engine. Worked fine until Ford got their hands on it.

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          I am surprised as Microsoft usually copies quality stuff.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            If they did that well, the world would be a better place.

            But at least everyone has realized Microsoft had a lost decade. I had to support their junk during most of that lost decade and I’m not happy about it.

            Linux FTW! Mac sometimes! And Microsoft when I get paid enough to deal with it….

  • avatar

    I think the most interesting part of the news is this (from DetNews)

    “The automaker could easily update the software of those vehicles already equipped with Sync to the Blackberry software”

    If consumer response to the new software is positive, Ford should offer it as a free upgrade to people who own Fords & Lincolns with Sync.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I would love that.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The thing is, I don’t buy this for a second. While it may be trivial to physically install such a package, in the same sense it’s trivial to install Linux on a PC, porting over the software for all these rolling models is no trivial endeavor; much of the development would have to be redone from scratch.

      • 0 avatar
        fredtal

        As a linux user it is easier to install Linux onto a PC than Windows. What Ford would most likely do is create a whole new package. That part is a lot of work, but to install on your car would be easy. The hard part will be for the users to learn the new system.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Development has to be re-done anyway. Ford has to re-write their software to run on QNX. That’s not quite “from scratch,” given that QNX has been perfecting their embedded OS for decades.

        It should be possible to load the new QNX-based software on SYNC-equiped cars. Ford is probably using an ARM CPU, a common GPU, a touch screen and a few other common bits of hardware (sound, bluetooth, USB, etc). Nothing that can’t be back-ported if they think there’s a business case.

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          This assumes you’re dealing with a software engineering group that can actually engineer infotainment software according to modern standards (portability, reusability, etc).

          GM doesn’t appear to have that, so I have my doubts about Ford.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          I don’t know if anyone else on this post has actually used QNX, but the last time I used it (about 10 years ago), it acted like a pretty basic Linux distribution with a minimal command line interface. I can’t remember I’d they shipped an X-server with it (I think they did), but it was more trouble than it would work.

          There were some extra realtime features in the kernel like deadline scheduling for realtime processing (which my boss at the time wanted to play with but he couldn’t get it to boot). These features let you tell the OS how long things are supoosed to take so that the system can guarantee CPU time for time-sensitive tasks.

          QNX would be a good fit for an infotainment system, except that Linux can do all of this now and they probably have to start over and write the GUI from scratch. But QNX was solid and clean, so it’s likely a good foundation.

    • 0 avatar
      bachewy

      I hope so. Hell I’d even pay for an upgrade in my Mustang. But, I’m expecting we won’t be grandfathered in and be left with MS Sync until we trade in our cars for something newer.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    How does the quote attributed to Susannah Wesley state that Ford will continue to work with Microsoft? I read that quote as “no comment.” You should have included the entire quote as mentioned in the Detroit News story, which also includes “Ford and Microsoft are longtime partners, and we continue working together for the future.” My guess is this means bug fixes for existing systems.

    Also, implying the QNX-based system might appear in the 2015 Mustang or F-150 just because Ford didn’t mention Microsoft is quite the leap. Just because Road & Track made that leap doesn’t mean you need to copy it here.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      It’s funny anyway that SYNC is getting some shit here..I thought that SYNC itself is about as good as voice-command systems get; it’s just the MyFordLincolnWhateverTouch that has been the red-headed stepchild!

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Ford works with a variety of partners and suppliers to develop and continuously improve our in-car connectivity systems for customers. We do not discuss details of our work with others for competitive reasons. We are absolutely committed to leading and innovating the smart technologies and in-vehicle connectivity that our customers want and value.

    Translation: Not that other manufacturers are releasing superior products and we’re saddled with Microsoft garbage, our claims of “user error” to explain away the problems of SYNC crashing, being frustrating to use, incapable of recognizing most human voice commands, and in general just being an ergonomic disaster are going to sound even more like BS that we’ve been using to explain away the myriad of QC hiccups of our shady product line.

    Not that we would admit it, we’re Ford after all and innovation at all costs has got to be worth something, right? Even if your new car won’t run the AC because the controls are on a wonky touchscreen display that has just crashed.

    Did we mention we’re a global company and didn’t take the federal bailout money?

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Win.

      “We are absolutely committed to leading and innovating the smart technologies and in-vehicle connectivity that our customers want and value.”

      Wow they could not have failed more at that. It’s like they didn’t even try.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @FJ60LandCruiser
      I had a good chat to the Mazda engineer when he came up to see and he stated Mazda’s dissatisfaction with the Ford Sync system.

      He also told me this new system was on the way towards the end of last year.

      You state Ford is constantly trying to improve which is great. But then making an aside that Ford didn’t get a handout.

      Ford did get a $6 billion dollar on interest loan, didn’t it. I’d call that some form of handout. I wish our government would give me money interest free, with a lax repayment schedule.

      Here’s an excerpt from Forbes dated; end of Aug 2012.

      “Ford Motor owes the government $5.9 billion it borrowed in June 2009, the same month GM filed for bankruptcy”

      Here’s the link.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/joannmuller/2012/08/29/automakers-report-card-who-still-owes-taxpayers-money-the-answer-might-surprise-you/

      So, you are a Ford guy spinning bull$hit.

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        Well, obviously…

        I’m just rehashing the BS Ford has been spewing over the past few years regarding their many problems and how they’ve tried to deflect the blame.

        -”user error” for the myriad of problems with the SYNC
        -drivers being too dumb to know how the PowerShift AT worked, so they were upset when their Fiestas drove like there was a drunken teenager operating the transmission
        -the pervasive myth that Ford didn’t receive a bailout (they even had TV commercials to the effect), when they had received a loan… tomato, potato.
        -denial of Mustang transmisison isssues

        • 0 avatar
          VCplayer

          Given the huge competitive disadvantage that Ford was put at by two of their biggest competitors being saved from bankruptcy that surely would have killed Chrysler and at least greatly reduced GM while giving them clean balance sheets while Ford’s was dripping with red ink, I have a hard time holding DOE loans or exploitive advertising against them. It’s like you working two jobs to keep your home while the guy across the street gets his paid off for him. I’m not blaming anyone for egging that guy’s house.

          Anyways, all is fair in love and war. GM got saved, but Ford took some of their market.

      • 0 avatar
        RogerB34

        Ford borrowed $5.9B offered by the DOE in response to CAFE mandate. The offer was to GM and Chrysler also. Better solution is knock off EPA CAFE mandates until further notice.
        ” On June 23, 2009, the Department of Energy announced it would provide $5.9 billion to Ford “to transform factories across Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio to produce 13 more fuel efficient models.”
        Ford used TARP to flay GM over $49.9B bailout of management and unions. Better they sell cars than propaganda.

      • 0 avatar

        Tesla and Nissan both took loans from the same ATVM program at the Dept of Energy. Tesla’s repaid their loan in full, while Nissan and Ford are making their payments on time.

      • 0 avatar
        TomHend

        Thanks for posting the Forbes article.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    My BT50 has Ford Sync in it. I find it quite extraordinary that Ford would of allowed such a product into their vehicle.

    I do know the SatNav software is provided by Bosch and it was at least 4 years old when loaded.

    I don’t consider the Sync system as a user friendly device. It’s easier to adjust all of the controls by hand as the voice recognition software is quite abysmal.

    I don’t know how good Blackberry is or if they’ll still be in business down the track considering the hiccups they’ve had recently.

    Is Blackberry a good investment for Ford?

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      “I find it quite extraordinary that Ford would of allowed such a product into their vehicle.”

      Really??? Quality and functionality are not Ford’s strong suits. So it’s actually not surprising at all that Ford would allow it.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Probably, QNX is a big player in the embedded OS field. Blackberry bought them to use as a base for Blackberry os. Now if they die completely someone will buy the QNX assets and it will be business as usual.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    QNX is a great OS. I am one of the unfortunate owners of a Blackberry Playbook, and even though it’s been abandoned by the software community and Blackberry itself, it’s a fantastic tablet that just got no love.

    I’ve since moved on to Android. Software isn’t as good, but I’ll never miss out on the hot games.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      You bring up something that crossed my mind. My impression of Blackberry is that its like some poor sap diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Its a company living on borrowed time.

      It seems to me Ford would have better off to partner with Google or Apple for their infotainment system or perhaps those companies are already locked down through other auto manufacturers and Ford was/just forced to scrape near the bottom of the barrel?

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        QNX was purchase by RIM and was already well regarded at the time. Despite all of the troubles that Blackberry had gone through, it remains an excellent platform to build mission critical applications off of, like in a car or a power plant.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Whatever happens to Blackberry, QNX will stick around. It’s a standalone, profitable division.

        The thing about QNX is that it’s an OS, not an interface. Using QNX doesn’t mean that the interface will get better. Ford could conceivably decide to make a new SYNC that’s exactly like the old one. They won’t, because that would be a stupid decision, even by big-3 standards.

        So why QNX? Because it’s made for this kind of application. What Microsoft, Google and Apple have to offer are hacked consumer device OSs. QNX is years ahead in terms of memory management, kernel architecture, and all that really unsexy stuff.

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          Unsexy except for us computer guys. Takes me back to my Operating Systems class. Good times.

        • 0 avatar
          kmoney

          QNX’s independent Kernels are probably my favourite feature of any smart phone. On my Playbook if an app crashes just flick it away and it’s gone with no effect on anything else; on my Android wait while it locks up the entire system for 1+ minutes before attempting to close.

          QNX will for sure live on. Most analysts’ positions now are that RIM will likely stop becoming a handset manufacturer and move into the solutions/embedded device market in the future.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Years ago there used to be jokes about ‘what if cars were run by Windows’ with all the obvious issues. Unfortunately the joke is becoming reality.

    There is a bigger problem though that goes beyond the specific failure modes and the disastrous use of touch screen menus instead of hard controls.and it’s partly driven by consumers who continue to buy this stuff: the time scales. Historically cars could last for quite a few years, and up to now have becoming somewhat more durable. But this is going very far in the other direction. Few people keep a smartphone for 3 years, businesses replace desktop computers every 3 years or so, expensive servers are considered ‘scrap’ at 5 years. How reliable do you think touch screens will be after 4 or 5 years of hot sun and cold winters? This is tolerable in smartphones because the telecoms make it easy (partly through hiding the costs) to replace phones regularly.

    Cars are another story. Yet if you look at the costs of replacing electronic controls, you’ll find the price is astronomical compared to the (very rare) replacement of a switch in an older car. True, much of this comes after the first lease runs out (leasing often conditions people to think very short term), but eventually it’s going to catch up. Used car prices (which affect lease figures) will start to include the expectation of replacement (almost exclusively performed by dealers) and alter that market too.

    A 15 year old F150 with a NA V8 is pretty easy to keep running. What will a F150 with a touch screen controlled, turbocharged tiny V6 be like in 15 years?

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      This ^

      All this stuff is nice and all, but show me a traditional double DIN radio if you want me excited.

      • 0 avatar
        Jim Z

        for as much as people grouse about MyFord Touch, the user interfaces on aftermarket 2DIN radios are at least 10 times worse.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          I’m talking factory.

          I also hate aftermarket radios, its impossible to find an aftermarket radio with a tune dial in addition to volume dial

          You would think aftermarket head unit makers would realize that maybe people like to listen to the actual radio, you know a radio with simple controls such as GM 03-06 6-disc unit.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @pragmatist – the infotainment touch screen doesn’t control the drivetrain. Totally separate system.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The infotainment system doesn’t keep the car from starting.

        But, like a trim panel falling off of the door, a broken infotainment system it does define a big part of the user experience.

        And that is a big problem by today’s (admittedly very high) standards.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I don’t care what they use, they will never meet my requirement of fundamental ergonomics. After a brief familiarization of controls, I should be able to manipulate ANY control on my car without taking my eyes off of the road. The only vehicle in my fleet that does this is my Ford Ranger, with contoured knobs that point where the knob is currently set. My 2000 Honda CR-V fails as the indicator is a mark, which needs to be seen. Our Mazda5 fails because the climate controls manipulate a setting as indicated on a display. Neither is as difficult as the new touchscreen/gazillion button units they have on most modern cars.

    BUT ALL IS NOT LOST!! Test drove a 2014 Mazda CX-5 the other day and what do you KNOW??? The base level climate control was three knobs with contoured knobs that can be felt to indicate the setting, like God intended. No eyes off of the road. The radio had a lot of extensive features but the basics were available via touch only.

    How fitting it is that when you move to the higher line model of CX-5 you can get blind spot warning and all of the other junk that helps you drive. I would hope so, since the entertainment, climate control, and navigation will have you spending less time driving and more time mucking around with the gizmos.

  • avatar
    Jim Z

    There’s a real misunderstanding (here and everywhere else) what QNX is.

    QNX is a very minimal operating system. It consists of a microkernel and assorted services, hardware drivers, and APIs for people to develop applications on top of it. QNX itself has no real user interface apart from a command line shell.* If you want to use QNX for a consumer product, it’s all on you to write the GUI and applications yourself. Blackberry 10 is not “QNX,” it’s a UI and collection of applications and services written by Blackberry, running on top of QNX. Uconnect 8.4 is not QNX, it’s a UI and collection of apps and services written by whoever makes it, running on top of QNX.

    QNX is not a silver bullet. The first “MyGig” navigation/multimedia radios Chrysler had were running on QNX, and they sucked. poorly designed or poorly coded apps will run like crap no matter what the underlying system is. and I know people love to knee-jerk “evil/incompetent Microsoft,” but Windows Phone 7 is evidence that it’s trivial to have a well-designed, high-performance consumer device running on Windows CE.

    (* the “desktop” version of QNX has a sparse GUI called “Photon,” but it’s really only there so developers can code their drivers/apps and cross-compile to the target architecture. Photon is not TTBOMK implemented into any end-user product.)

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      I suspect in this context, they are talking about the QNX Car Platform, not the base QNX kernel.

      http://www.qnx.com/products/qnxcar/

      • 0 avatar

        That looks like a blackberry platform, plus some html interface they added just for cars. Seems like an odd coupling to a real time system, but then again many of the current info-systems lag, too. Are car makers really scraping the bottom of the barrel for developers?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My dislike for Microsoft is not knee jerk. I’ve been fixing their junk for a living for over 20 years.

      Familiarity breeds contempt. If you’ve ever learned anything else, anyway.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    I give Ford credit for admitting defeat on MyFordTouch and going with a recognized software leader. The question is with Blackberry doing so poorly in the mobile phone market, what is the long term prospects for the QNX division?

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      The QNX devision is different from the smartphone division, and is doing well; it has slso been used for realtime applications in the power plant world for over a decade now. During that time, Windows has come far from Windows 95 and Windows NT, but it is still not built for real-time applications from the ground up like QNX OS is.

      Like others said though; it is MyFord Touch applications running on top of whatever OS is being used that will make the difference. It is possible to develop the GUI to look the same as their current offerings to minimize user confusion during the switchover.

  • avatar
    Atum

    Android needs to make a vehicular OS based on KitKat or JellyBean.

    And I didn’t suggest Apple because Apple doesn’t even build their phones. I know LG builds the screen and Asus builds some of the hard drives.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      I don’t suggest that. Having all applications being written in a subset of Java running on Dalvik. It’s much the problem they have now on the current Microsoft platform. Too much abstraction from the base hardware.

      QNX is a much better choice as they applications can be brought close to the metal of the machine which will increase performance.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        You can write Android apps in C++, C, or assembler. Much faster – especially if you master the neon instructions or take advantage of the GPUs on newer platforms like the SnapDragon 80x.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Please list out all the phones, screens, processors, and drives that google has manufactured… or even designed… or even had a hand in designing. Hell, Google’s OS doesn’t even make it to most android phones without getting tweaked by the carrier or the phone maker.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> Please list out all the phones, screens, processors, and drives that google has manufactured… or even designed… or even had a hand in designing.

        Google owned Motorola up until they sold it to Lenova. The Nexus devices can be bought with the straight unmodified version of Android. I think they had a hand in designing the Nexus line of devices as well.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          The Nexus 4 was built by LG. The Nexus 7 was (is?) build by Asus.

          I have no idea how much influence Google had on the hardware design, but it certainly wasn’t more than Apple’s with their devices.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Hence I said “most android phones”. I know the Nexus line comes with un-raped Android. My point was that his post made no sense. It would be like me suggesting someone buy a Rolls because Bentleys were too expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      What’s your point about Apple not building their phones? Google doesn’t build anything with Android running on it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @Atum

      Apple sub-contracts the assembly of their phones and tablets, but the designs are 100% Apple’s. In fact, Apple even designs the CPUs these days.

      Google has a hand in the design of the Nexus line of products, but they are fundamentally other company’s hardware. Which is not to disparage them, IMHO Apple is no longer the leader in this area and has not been for a while now. Apple is a leader in getting people to pay lots of money for their stuff, and more power to them for it!

      The phone wars feel like the Mac/PC wars all over again. Apple did things better than MS for a while, then MS caught up and left them in the dust for a long time. Then Apple caught up again. We are in the leaving Apple in the dust stage, with Google playing the MS role.It will be interesting to see the next rabbit Apple pull out of their hat. Assuming they can do it without The Steve.

      I had three generations of iPhone, and an iPad Mini. but ultimately Apple’s walled garden was a bit too small so I switched to Google with a Nexus 5 and 7. Apple makes GREAT mobile hardware, but at the moment the software kind of sucks. If I could run Android on an iPad Mini I would be in hog heaven, though I much prefer the Nexus 5 to the iPhone 5.

    • 0 avatar
      Magnusmaster

      They’re already working on that. But Android is the last OS I would ever want on my car.
      Android reminds me a lot of old Windows versions, with its unreliability and ridiculous hardware consumption. Whoever decided to make everything run on Java deserves to be shot. With low processing power the last thing you want is to run key components on a virtual machine. Even with the insane hardware on new phones, such as dual-core processors with clock rates and memory quickly approaching desktop computers the user interface still drags and the phone can still crash frequently due to buggy applications.
      It doesn’t help that’s there is no equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Del on my phone so I have to force reset every time an app crashes. There are also times when the phone just resets itself when it crashes. Android on a car is just going to lead to disaster.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    What about dinosaurs like me who don’t give a SHostakovITch about Sync? I’m content with “simple.” If anyone wants to go off into the desert and fart dust with me, I’ll send you the GPS coordinates.

  • avatar
    optflv

    Are they going to make it look like Cadillac CUE? Because that picture is of a Cadillac CTS…

    Good news that they’re making major improvements though. SYNC was me second least favorite feature of my Mustang behind the MT82 glass transmission.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Uggh, more bad decisions from people that make cars, but have no clue how to develop software.

    The mobile world is splitting into Android and iOS – with very little room for any third parties. OEMs should focus on getting either Android into the dash or Apple’s new vehicle tech that is currently in development.

    Android should be easier as it is more mature, has a very robust developer ecosystem, and is based on linux – which has realtime Kernels available.

    I’m not sure what QNX brings to the table that Linux does not. Sure they were the king of embedded operating systems in the 90′s, but not now. As I look around my server rooms and my house everything that runs an embedded operating system runs linux.

    The next big thing in cars will be full-time data connectivity with access to an app store. Blackberry/QNX might be dead last in that area. People want choice – they want to be able to choose from different NAV apps, different streaming music apps….etc.

    OEM’s need to simply put Android in the dash – most of the work is already done, and the software ecosystem can’t be beat. I’m sure whatever apple is cooking up will also be very good.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      The difference between Android, iOS, Windows Mobile and QNX is that QNX is based on a completely different architecture.

      QNX uses what’s commonly mis-named a “micro-kernel” architecture. What that really means is that almost every process and driver runs as a separate process outside of the kernel.

      As some of you may know, drivers such as USB are built into the Linux/Unix kernel that Android and iOS use. That means that they run at kernel-level and have access to any and all system resources.

      Long story short, the tiny QNX kernel is just there to decide what gets to run when. For instance, it can be configured in such a way that any touchscreen input is handled immediately, regardless of what else is running. It doesn’t let applications push it around.

      On an Android or iOS system, an application can effectively tell the kernel “I will take over the system and give you back control when I’m done. You just have to wait.” That can’t happen in QNX.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Thanks for putting in laymen terms what i learned in Operating System Theory for the masses.

      • 0 avatar
        Jim Z

        “On an Android or iOS system, an application can effectively tell the kernel “I will take over the system and give you back control when I’m done. You just have to wait.” That can’t happen in QNX.”

        Is that really true? even on phones, iOS and Android are still pre-emptive multitasking OSes, owing to their OS X/Linux heritage. You’re describing co-operative multitasking which hasn’t really been done since the death of Classic Mac OS.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          They are all pre-emptive, but the difference is in the implementation.
          QNX is a lot more strict and can be configured to guaranty that a certain process will get CPU time even if other processes have a higher priority. That’s great for embedded systems where you want everything to be responsive.

          Unix-like systems are better for applications where overall processing speed is more important than any single process’s response time.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          As I explained elsewhere, iOS as used on Apple mobile devices can only multitask audio/phone, messaging, and e-mail at the operating system level. It does not mult-task apps; when you switch from one app to another, the old app is shut down. (That is why there is no exit button; is shut down automatically.) Well written iOS apps are designed to pick up where you left off when you switch back them; but they are NOT running in the background.

          • 0 avatar

            > As I explained elsewhere, iOS as used on Apple mobile devices can only multitask audio/phone, messaging, and e-mail at the operating system level. It does not mult-task apps; when you switch from one app to another, the old app is shut down.

            That’s just an arbitrary choice in their mobile system to minimize foreground latency.

          • 0 avatar
            Jim Z

            Like agenthex said, that’s a deliberate design decision and only for user apps launched by Springboard. Behind the scenes iOS is like any modern OS with dozens of processes and daemons running in the background.

            @heavy handle:

            You’re talking about a real-time OS. Nothing about *nix makes it inherently more suited to be a RTOS; Windows CE kernel can work as one also.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Which, going further; means that QNX is designed for industrial strength real time data acquisition and control systems. Windows uses pre-emptive multi-tasking; but that allows an application to steal lots of processing power from other apps, which can mess up real time processes. QNX (as explained by heavy handle) does not; that, along with the small kernel size, is why it is popular with embedded devices; though I was loading QNX on some Intel PCs for stack emissions monitoring while working for an electric utility in 2000.

        MacOS, used by Macintosh computers, is a pre-emptive multi-tasking operating system just like Unix/Linux and Windows. But, Apple’s iOS that is used by Apple mobile devices, is not. The OS itself can multi-task phone/audio, messaging, and e-mail; but not apps. Say for example you are using an app to read your car’s ODBII codes; when you switch away to read a text message or e-mail, your ODBII app is shut down. Well written iOS apps will pick up right where you left off when you open them up again, but they were not running in the background. This was done to make iOS usable on mobile devices with limited memory and processing power. It may work fine on a component (standalone) infotainment system; but not as part of a system that manages your car as well.

        With all this talk of using iOS in infotainment systems in cars; there is one major problem – Apple is not interested, and they do not sell iOS to third party users. So, that talk is purely academic.

        I don’t know a lot about the Android OS; it may use the Linux/Unix kernel; but I would imagine that it too has been stripped down to the core functionality to work on mobile devices with their limited resources; and may have some of the same limitations as iOS.

        If, BSQUARE Corp wrote MFT in Java; then it may run unaltered on a QNX system because Java is hardware independent. I have written an app that runs and looks the same on iOS, Android, and Goggle Chrome or Safari running on any desktop computer because it was compiled in Javascript, and uses its own widgets (buttons, etc.) rather than the ones used by the OS. But, if that was where the bugs were, then they will move with MFT to QNX as well.

        • 0 avatar
          zerofoo

          Apple is, in fact, working on integrating iOS with OEM systems. Siri hands-free is the start of this.

          Apple has expressed interest in auto infotainment systems. I’m certain they are working on it. I’m not sure how they plan to get a foothold into the auto dashboard.

          Maybe they will actually buy Tesla?

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          This is splitting technical hairs, but I believe iOS has full preemptive multitasking support at the kernel level — it just severely limits userspace programs from accessing it.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            “This is splitting technical hairs, but I believe iOS has full preemptive multitasking support at the kernel level — it just severely limits userspace programs from accessing it.”

            Which is just another way of saying what I said: that iOS itself can multi-task phone/audio, messaging, itune updates, and e-mail; but not apps. Since MFT would run as an app or apps on top of the OS; it cannot mult-task MFT functionality on top of iOS. And this is all academic until Apple decides to enter the automotive infotainment market.

      • 0 avatar
        zerofoo

        A couple of points:

        Windows Mobile is based on the NT kernel developed by ex-DEC engineer David Cutler. It is a micro-kernel architecture.

        Linux and its variants are a monolithic kernel – drivers operate in kernel space – not in user space.

        In the end – who cares? Linus Torvalds opted for a monolithic kernel to keep the code simple. Linus hated micro-kernel architectures like minix due to the complexities of keeping all the pieces outside the kernel happy. Complexity is the enemy of reliability.

        Preemptive multitasking has been part of the linux kernel forever, however multitasking in the mobile world is more complicated for power management reasons. Linux does have a real-time kernel – A determined OEM could change the multitasking behavior of apps if they so desired. Battery life for an in-dash device is not so critical.

        Qnx isn’t really superior in any of these areas. Micro vs monolithic is simply a kernel design decision. Both can be well or badly done. Multitasking can be handled any number of ways – this really needs to be dependent on the hardware and the use case of the device that is being developed.

        What can not be denied is the developer ecosystem present in both Android and iOS. Qnx/Blackberry simply does not have it. For these systems to be useful to the end users, a robust developer ecosystem needs to exist. Not many developers are going to want to build separate apps for Ford/Chevy/Hyundai…etc. Car manufacturers would be best served by leveraging android and iOS for this.

        • 0 avatar

          > Not many developers are going to want to build separate apps for Ford/Chevy/Hyundai…etc.

          I seriously doubt any car maker is going to allow general store apps to run on their vehicles, and it’s unlikely all these guys are going to cooperate on a standard industry architecture without gov intervention like ODB.

          • 0 avatar
            zerofoo

            Initially they won’t want 3rd party apps, until one manufacturer allows it. After that horse leaves the barn, every customer will demand it.

            Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose your navigation app, or your streaming music app, or your “avoid the speed trap” app?

            We’re doing it now with phones tethered to radios with bluetooth audio. All I want is that same functionality built into the dash so my phone can stay in my pocket.

          • 0 avatar

            > Initially they won’t want 3rd party apps, until one manufacturer allows it. After that horse leaves the barn, every customer will demand it.

            I think we would all prefer well made apps but the question is if it’s enough of a differentiator to buy a car. If it is, it would make more sense for a maker to keep it to themselves instead of giving it to any competitor.

            The only reason they would all agree to a standard is if they bond over collective instead of self-interest, which seems unlikely, or they were forced to like OBD.

        • 0 avatar
          Jim Z

          “Windows Mobile is based on the NT kernel developed by ex-DEC engineer David Cutler.”

          wellll… sort of. Windows Phone 8 is running on NT. Phone 7 and all versions of Windows Mobile prior to that were running on the Windows CE kernel, which is unrelated to NT. SYNC runs on top of Windows CE.

          ” It is a micro-kernel architecture.”

          It WAS a micro-kernel until NT 4.0. Then key hardware subsystems were pulled into the kernel mode executive. it’s more of a “hybrid” now; hardware interfaces *can* run in user mode (micro-kernel style) but where performance is critical, they tend to run in kernel mode (monolithic style.)

          It’s interesting that Vista moved a bit back to the micro-kernel philosophy. Graphics drivers were known to be one of the most complex and failure-prone components (which would BSoD or hang the system if they went down.) Vista introduced the split graphics driver model; there’s a small kernel-mode component which the user-mode part (which does all the heavy lifting) communicates with. now, on Vista/7/8, if the graphics driver crashes it can simply be restarted without the system blue-screening.

          • 0 avatar
            zerofoo

            It’s my understanding that, many years ago, graphics drivers were pulled into the windows kernel for performance reasons only. As hardware performance increased, the graphics subsystem was moved outside the kernel – where it rightfully belongs.

            Microsoft should have put CE out to pasture years ago. I cringed every time we deployed ATMs based on Windows CE at my last bank gig.

            I love unix and all its variants, but the popularity of Android can not be beat. The sooner it gets into dashboards the better. I may just stick a Nexus 7 in my dash and call it good.

        • 0 avatar
          Magnusmaster

          The “real-time” versions of Linux are a hack which probably can’t match the performance of a real RTOS (I may be wrong, I have never used a RTOS). But it may still work out on a car, the biggest problem with Android is the overreliance on Java and its ridiculous bloatness.

    • 0 avatar
      Atum

      The Nokia Lumia is Windows Phone 8. It’s basically Windows 8 transferred to an OS. Especially in high school, a lot of people are biased towards iOS 7 and bash Android, even when they release revolutionary products such as the S5 and HTC One (which I’m considering buying in April).

      My friends are tech enthusiasts, and think Android is a lot better. As I stated above, Apple doesn’t even build their own phones! Besides, Android is based on Linux (this is why Linux fanatics love Android. I haven’t really talked to my friends about Linux). While one of my friends liked his Android phone, he had to give it back for AT&T for I don’t really know. He also hacks too; that could be something.

  • avatar
    areader

    “I should be able to manipulate ANY control on my car without taking my eyes off of the road.”

    That should be engraved across the top of the doorway of every office/work area of an organization working with auto electronics that the customer sees. How in the world did we get to the point where taking eyes off the road is necessary for everything? How does so-called management allow the nerds to take over and everybody else put up with the crap that customers can’t use to their satisfaction? Surely sales people must have seen this coming and surely at least some of them fed this back to Ford and other companies. We need an adult in the damn place if just on a rotating basis who can call bullshit on this stuff before it takes over. So now it all has to be redesigned with the bugs that will be built in and eventually removed. After 10 years or so of wheel spinning. Nuts. To save time on the next cycle how about contracting it out to North Korea or some such where they have no choice but to keep it simple. We’re way to smart to keep it simple.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      The reason for touch screens is so that excessive buttons can be eliminated from the console. Certain controls need to have “no-look” alternatives, but others you shouldn’t be messing with when the car is moving anyways. Things like navigation should ideally be controlled by voice, more buttons isn’t going to help with that.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Interesting development. Given that by many accounts the issue here is with Ford’s application rather than Microsoft’s O/S, I wonder if it is as simple as RIM gave them a better deal? When you are talking many millions of units, it doesn’t take much to add up to real serious money.

    Count me as one who as zip zero nada interest in having a touchscreen infotainment system in his car. Much as I loath iDrive, it is still better than a touchscreen.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      I was wondering about this. I think RIM would probably be interested in cutting some good deals given the state of their business. They’ve typically been very good at coming up with solutions for businesses on a variety of issues, they’ve just been outdone by Google and Apple in the smartphone market.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I tried using Sync equipped system in a rental F150 recently. About the only thing I was able to figure out was how to turn on the radio (but not change stations.) The whole thing seemed like some kind of lunacy.

    And people badmouth iDrive… Which was the easiest thing to figure out and use for me personally.

  • avatar
    johnny_5.0

    Rabble rabble boo hiss Microsoft!!! I expected slightly better investigative work from TTAC. While the internet at large loves to dump on Microsoft, they _did not_ develop MyFordTouch. Microsoft developed Sync, and MFT is built on top of the Windows Embedded Automotive core, but the actual MFT layer was outsourced to a company called BSQUARE Corp with disastrous results. Other manufacturers successfully used all of the Microsoft bits to build non-buggy infotainment systems. You can do better TTAC.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    The first company that has an infotainment system that displays an apple with a bite out of it upon start up will win this battle. Take the cMax energi and add Apple and you may reach the Prius buyer.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    In other news today, Ford announced that their new auditors will be Arthur Anderson, the upcoming back seat entertainment system will feature Betamax, and their new CFO is Bernie Madoff.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Great discussion on the advantages of QNX vs other options. This is a nice example of TTAC quickly posting a piece of news and leaving it to the readers to fill in the blanks.

  • avatar

    This article like most of its peers on the same topic are poorly explained because the writers don’t understand how computers work. Ford or whomever doesn’t necessarily “choose” low level layers like QNX but rather an ecosystem or a subcontractor in this case to develop the system as a whole. Anyone who’s used various types of smartphones (esp w/ same apps) should realize that most of the performance nevermind the functionality diff is a consequence of the implementation.

    A poor core can hinder implementation but even very primitive computers work well if reasonably designed, and Windows cores certainly aren’t poor. Car infotainment systems mostly suck because the implementers (b-squared mentioned above for Ford) are sub-standard compared to the best in the tech industry. It’s just unfortunate that they used the MS branding to cover all of Sync so the rabble are pointing the finger at the wrong people as usual.

  • avatar
    Ion

    Most people get this wrong but Sync and MFT are not the same thing. I have Sync and a Nav + autoclimate but I don’t have MFT. I don’t really have issues with sync it works wonderfully with my 2nd gen iPod touch,my climate controls and my Nav. My cell is buggy but that’s because the phone itself likes to drop bluetooth signal randomly.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Should put the blackberry systems in Lincolns as Lincoln and R.I.M. are both dead brands walking.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Is it me or the car in the picture is a GM product. All the switch gear screams GM car (maybe Cadillac) to me.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    I was writing pretty heated emails to Ford about the SYNC system. That whole mess was absurd, including how you couldn’t even download the updates unless you had an outdated version of IE installed.

    That said, it has turned into a reasonably reliable system. By that I mean I only had to do a system wipe once in the past six months, versus the two or three times a week when I first got the system.

    So yeah, good for Ford. Don’t fuck it up again.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      “By that I mean I only had to do a system wipe once in the past six months, versus the two or three times a week when I first got the system.”

      Having to do a system wipe is noteworthy. A coworker complains that every time the dealer tries to address a MFT problem, he loses all his contacts, presets, etc. So not only is it unreliable, but they don’t have customer-friendly fixes either.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    I am feeling pretty good about myself right now…why ..cause I called this on a tech site about six months ago. I am not a techie but a car guy that likes tech. When I mentioned that this would be the best fit for Ford I had over 40 responses calling me a fool…


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