By on May 6, 2008

ford-ms-sync-12.jpgCredit where credit's due: Ford was the first automaker to risk afflicting their customers with the blue screen of death and install the Microsoft SYNC system in their products. Not only did Microsoft's in-car multiple device Bluetooth-enabled voice-activation thingie not serve-up a code 10, but Ford put it in their entry-level models AND milked it with plenty o' marketing. But Bill Gate's mob let it be known from the start– as did responsible members of the media– that SYNC was heading into rival products after an 18-month "window of exclusivity." And so, at the end of the year, Ford's bragging right will be defenestrated by none other than Korean budget car maker Hyundai– a Ford wannabe if there ever was one. Yup, Hyundai is next to SYNC up. The New York Times reports "Windows Automotive will first appear in Hyundai vehicles in North America in 2010, said Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft’s automotive business unit. Subsequent versions will give drivers voice control over navigation systems and video entertainment, in addition to cellphones and digital music players." There was a brouhaha recently when rumors circulated that Ford would allow Microsoft to use SYNC for advertising, which they vigorously denied. Or at least didn't confirm. Yet. What's the bet Kia/Hyundai show similar restraint? 

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18 Comments on “Microsoft In-Car SYNC System Hits Hyundai Next...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    I think Kia is making huge inroads into the low end market that the 2.8 were losing already. Adding this little feature only adds to the drive.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    SYNC isn’t available on base models. When I looked at the Fusion, it was optional on the mid level trim and standard on the top level trim, and unavailable on the base.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    This is bad news for Ford AND Microsoft. For Ford it’s bad, because their technology lead is now shared with a budget manufacturer. No more premium there.

    It’s bad for Microsoft because consumers have learned that the best technology starts out in the most expensive cars, and then trickles down.

    What manufacturer will sign up now? Gee we can have technology just as good as Ford and Kia? Big whup. Only Chrysler could possibly be tempted now, and only if its free.

  • avatar
    jaje

    The original Focus was a decent car (most highly recalled car in history) but decent (except one of the rentals I had had a failed transmission) driver for an economy car. The SVT was very quick though.

    Ford instead of updating the car chassis and drivetrain they gave it some more lipstick and stuck in a gimmic. Once that gimmic loses its niche the Focus is well just a 10 year old car with a skin deep redesign. Same old story from GM/Ford with their small cars. Do a complete revamp every 15 years after they lose customers versus Toyondassan which provides a complete redesign every 5 years.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    I think Sync is a Ford trademark, so it will have another name in its Hyundai/Kia version. Will sales of KiaSync equipped vehicles also go up 30%?

    @SherbornSean: Ford and Microsoft signed an exclusivity for just 18 months. Ford gets to sell more Foci for now, Microsoft will make it up in volume later. Microsoft & Fiat have a similar “Blue&Me” option in the EU, and other products will be available for those of us who want similar features with their current car.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Robert: Technically—you headline should read Hyundai—not Kia as the article clearly states it will show up in Hyundai vehicles first. There is no mention of when it will show up in Kia. Also–I believe (can you confirm)Hyundai need to call it something else as Ford owns the “SYNC” branding.

    JaJe: The only issue with your analysis is that Ford will have the New (read Euro) Focus on US Shores by 2010…so your “Ford Product Improvement Bash” is historically correct but not so correct moving forward. They smartly used the Sync technology to bridge the gap between the current Focus and the 2010 Focus.

    The strategy seems to be working as Focus sales (including retail) are up big time year-on-year. While gas prices and the move to smaller vehicles is surely a big part of this—-Sync is as well. Maybe this Focus isn’t the dog that some on this site think.

    Last—who says Ford will continue to have the current SYNC in cars when Hyundai untilizes the technology in 2010 ? Could Ford be working with Microsoft on V 2.0 ? I don’t know—do any of you ?

  • avatar

    umterp85 :

    Robert: Technically—you headline should read Hyundai—not Kia as the article clearly states it will show up in Hyundai vehicles first. There is no mention of when it will show up in Kia.

    Point taken. Headline amended.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Robert—you might want to make the body of the story correct as well to “sync up” (no pun intented) with the headline. I know this takes out the Kia = Ford sizzle…but in this case…we only know the fact that Hyundai will be utilizing the technology—not Kia.

  • avatar

    umterp85 :

    There is that. Done.

    BTW, am I the only one who doesn’t see any major difference between Kia and Hyundai? I bought a Kia. Yeah? Well I bought a Hyundai.

    Not feeling it.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    umterp85,
    You are correct that none of us knows whether Ford will have exclusive rights to SYNC 2.0.

    That said, Microsoft didn’t get into this to do the OEM electronics for a few carmakers — they got into it (just like any market they enter) to dominate. If Toyota, GM, Honda and the Germans turn their noses up at SYNC because consumers view it as downmarket, then they’ve failed.

    One way to fix that would be to buy OnStar from GM and integrate it with Sync. Then, Microsoft would have the best technology in the market, and pick up an extra 24 points of market share. Well, 23.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Robert: I think there is a big difference. Kia’s rep is where Hyundai’s was 5-6 years ago.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    No, no, Umterp85,
    Didn’t you see the Press Release?

    Kia is a sporty brand and Hyundai is a luxury brand. Which explains why Kia’s best product is a minivan and Hyundai’s will be a sporty RWD coupe.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    SherbornSean :
    May 6th, 2008 at 8:50 am

    This is bad news for Ford AND Microsoft. For Ford it’s bad, because their technology lead is now shared with a budget manufacturer. No more premium there.

    That’s assuming Ford is less of a “budget manufacturer” than Hyundai is at this point. I would say they are on the same level in the public’s mind. Now, Kia would be below Ford, but Hyundai itself isn’t.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    SherbornSean :
    May 6th, 2008 at 9:49 am

    That said, Microsoft didn’t get into this to do the OEM electronics for a few carmakers — they got into it (just like any market they enter) to dominate. If Toyota, GM, Honda and the Germans turn their noses up at SYNC because consumers view it as downmarket, then they’ve failed.

    If Toyota or Honda was smart, they’d get Apple or Google to co-brand a similar system. People don’t buy Microsoft products because they like Microsoft, they buy them because they want to be able to share documents with other Microsoft Office users or play games that only come for Microsoft Windows. Apple and Google have actual “fans”, which is much more than Microsoft can say.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Umterp85 :
    “Maybe this Focus isn’t the dog that some on this site think.”

    The new Focus may indeed be an ok car and a reasonable value but I’ve got some pretty strong opinions based on looking at them last weekend at a local dealer. Every single one had seats with ill fitting or installed upholstery. It seemed as if the seat upholstery was installed by monkeys using wooden mallets and pipe wrenches while hopped up on skittles and mescaline. The worst offenders were the ones with leather seats. The white thread on the black leather really helped accentuate the epic failure of the whole design. It’s as if the designers had no idea what shape the cushions or seat frames were and just guessed (and it also appears that the designer had no idea that there would be seatbelts to account for either).

    Given that, I’d probably opt for a Hyundai or Kia based on the fact that although they lack the “glamor” of the Focus, at least someone took the time to make sure the interior was put together right.

    I’ll be honest though in saying that if they could fix the stupid looking front end of the Focus and have the guy who led the seat team crucified the Focus would be a much better vehicle overall. The fact that it comes with SYNC in some models is nice too and probably draws some of the shoppers from some of the competition (although the Focus’s EPA ratings are probably make a stronger statement overall).

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    I’m not going to buy it b/c like so many other things it represents proprietary technology that only certain branded technology will work with. Some people might argue that this guarantees a better user experience but to me that only guarantees obsolecence on the manufactuer’s schedule.

    I’ll stick with an AUX in-port with a 1/8″ inch stereo female port. Yeah I’m old school but my technology is universal. Another nice idea is the stereo that come with a USB port or SD card reader. Universal technology that anything works well with.

    This is about the same reason I went with Linux after being a Microsoft fan for several years. I figured out that the Linux guys have tried really hard to be compatible with everyone’s formats whether they are open or closed or something in between.

    My mother has On-Star in her Envoy. It was nice she said. They used it once when they first bought the vehicle but when the subscription expired it became just another thing they carry around in the their vehicle 100% of the time. What’s the point with a typical cellphone along for emergencies?

  • avatar
    Theodore

    Am I the only person who actively doesn’t want SYNC and similar technologies in his car? It’s not just that it’s Microsoft (although I’d sooner have Lucas electrics) – it’s more that it’s just something else that’ll break. Well, that and I really don’t want HAL riding shotgun.

  • avatar
    kevinb120

    “Ford instead of updating the car chassis and drivetrain they gave it some more lipstick and stuck in a gimmick. Once that gimmic loses its niche the Focus is well just a 10 year old car with a skin deep redesign. Same old story from GM/Ford with their small cars. Do a complete revamp every 15 years after they lose customers versus Toyondassan which provides a complete redesign every 5 years.”

    Technically the Focus has a more robust and excellent suspension setup whereas the Civic has gone backwards and has been cheapened down from the setup 10 years ago. Corolla still rolls on an exact copy of the suspension from a 1984 Dodge Omni, so who is the least sophisticated again? And it is well under the price-point of the Hondota vehicles. Ford also offers another Focus to choose from in the form of the S40 and Mazda 3 if you want to break the $20k mark and have it be worth the money(unlike a Honda or Toyota as well)…So technically its an 8 year old platform, but still 10 years ahead of an 09 Corolla, Go figure.

    Build quality is on par (or better) with its competitors and there are a lot more gizmos to be had for much less money, with a better warranty then a few of them. (not sure what the seat comment was about, they all look fine here)

    If you haven’t used SYNC, I’ve spent plenty of time in new 7 series and CLS class and up MB’s, and its far better then thier bluetooth offerings. Just copy a few thousand songs on a $40 USB thumb drive, plug it in the USB hub, and never touch the radio again(sync Foci can switch media, volume, and tracks on the wheel, and just about everything else is voice command). It also understands mispronunciations and can guess omitted words spoken for tracks or artists quite well. As for proprietary, it works with the EXTREMELY proprietary ipod(now THERE’s a scam) and the zune, any thumb drive, and you can burn MP3 discs for the 6CD changer, not to mention you can play music you have saved on any bluetooth phone. So what’s proprietary when you can use just about any possible way to store music? when Civic ads brag about finally getting an input headphone jack, yay. It is clear that a lot of people posting on TTAC have NO idea whatsoever what SYNC is

    Not bad for a car that sits you up higher then most, has lots of suspension travel, a great warranty, and a good swath of options for under $18k with a moonroof, alloy wheels, abs, and sync.

    Other then the 2000 models that CR dragged out the recalls(as they did the Windstar over 5 years after it was discontinued) from using a direct-from-Europe car that everyone cries for(the mondeo was a headache too as the contour), they are quite reliable cars, virtually indestructible after the 2005 re-hash.

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