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No hard feelings, Alan? Ford reportedly will dump Microsoft's Sync

The car maker turns to an unlikely source for a new in-car computing system.

Ford Motor, the company whose CEO was the discussion of furious speculation as a potential CEO for Microsoft, is set to dump Microsoft's Sync software used to control the in-car system due to poor performance.

Sync first appeared in Ford and Lincoln models in 2008, providing drivers with Bluetooth connectivity for cellphones, voice-controlled digital media players, and radio controls, and later, reading back text messages sent to the phone. Microsoft has since picked up Kia Motors, and some models from Fiat, Nissan, and BMW.

But Sync has had its problems. Ford and Lincoln ranked 26th and 27th out of the 28 brands measured by Consumer Reports’ annual auto-reliability survey last October, and problems with Sync contributed to that.

So, Bloomberg reports that Ford is reportedly read to dump Sync… for BlackBerry’s QNX. Using QNX will be less expensive than Sync, and it has many technological advantages, but I wonder if anyone at Ford has looked at the state of BlackBerry lately.

I have not driven a Ford, so I can only go by the reviews, and they are dreadful. In 2012, Ford sank to 27th place, having been in fifth place just two years earlier, almost entirely because of the in-dash system was so bad. Almost two years later and nothing has changed.

As the owner of a 2012 Toyota Camry I have to say that is some kind of record, because the Camry in-dash system stinks. At least the Bluetooth support is solid.

QNX is a solid, mature, real-time OS, and thanks to its modularity, it was believed Android app compatibility could be added to run on BlackBerry phones. There was a lot of chatter about that a few years back but it has since fallen off, mostly because BlackBerry has fallen off to near non-existence.

QNX also has its own in-dash car system, creatively titled QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment. It's quite mature, with plenty of hardware partners as well as support for Qt, HTML5, and JavaScript. Its customers include BMW, Chrysler, Honda, General Motors, Mercedes, and Toyota.

In-vehicle technology has quickly become a major selling point for automotive vendors. According to a December 2012 survey by Accenture, 39% of auto buyers say their primary consideration is the in-car system, more than twice the 14% who say their primary consideration is traditional performance measures, such as power and speed.

Google announced its own in-car effort in January to bring the Android operating system to cars. So far it has teamed with General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia. Apple is working with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and others to put iOS into cars.

Car sales aren't exactly on par with computers and smartphones; all told, about one million new cars have been sold per year for the last few years. But quite a battle is shaping up for the car, and Microsoft might lose out big on this one. It still has other partners, but Ford was its biggest and the one that actually included Sync in its advertising.

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