By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Ford and Microsoft announced that Ford cars, beginning this year, will offer advanced car radio systems that can connect to most portable devices via Bluetooth or USB, creating a system that could be competitive with after-market car stereo systems.
The new Ford "Sync" system was announced by Bill Gates, speaking by satellite from International CES and by Ford at the Detroit Auto Show.
Ford Sync radios will use software from Microsoft. They will be able to play back music from a cellular phone or Microsoft Zune, iPod or other PlaysForSure and USB devices. Ford Sync also offers voice-activation commands to sort through music, to dial the name of a person and other functions. It can also read aloud text messages from a cellphone.
Ford will offer Sync on 12 2008 model year vehicles including the Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred, Edge, Freestyle, Explorer and Sport Trac; Mercury Milan, Montego and Mountaineer; and Lincoln MKX and MKZ.
Ford said it is catering to Generation Y, which includes approximately 57 million people born between 1981 and 1995, and which is the first group of car buyers who has grown up online.
The Sync system connects to a host of devices either by Bluetooth or a USB 2.0 port. It can automatically connect to up to six cellphones.
After-market suppliers said the Ford radios might help raise awareness about "connectivity" in the car and that it would not impact the aftermarket in the near term as most car audio buyers, in the younger age groups, do not buy new cars.
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