Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ford throws in the kitchen "Sync" - My thoughts on Ford

For the first part of the last decade Ford was often viewed as the weakest of the herd of automobile manufacturers in the area of in-cab electronics. This was exemplified by the failure of the Ford / Qualcomm joint venture, Wingcast, in 2002.  As recent as 2006, Ford was still shipping systems with a branched version of PSOS from 1996 in most of their new vehicle systems – (ask me how I know. . . oh ya I have a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid with a PSOS Nav system. PSOS. . . the acronym I can make from the name would be quite applicable . . . I digress) .

Ford quickly realized they were being outpaced in technology and needed a way to leapfrog the industry while removing costs from the supply chain that made it difficult to deploy systems in entry level vehicles.

Desperation breeds innovation and Ford was desperate. They reached out to software suppliers rather than the traditional Tier 1 supply chain. Thus the Microsoft, Elektrobit, Ford and to a lesser extent Continental based Sync was born. Microsoft needed a big win and Ford needed innovation.

Even though Ford didn’t do anything completely original, what they did was use technology and a new supply chain to provide features usually reserved for the highest end (often least techno-savvy) class of vehicles / consumers to the Facebook, Pandora crowd. They did this in a cost effective way that could be mainstream, in all classes of vehicles and link to a consumer’s favorite device.

Ford also took risks both with Microsoft from a quality and supplier perspective, but also in allowing for updates direct to the consumer.

People can argue about Microsoft and Ford’s approach but all the research I have seen shows that Sync is selling cars. There is no argument that Ford has got momentum among the big 3 and was the only one of them that didn’t seek Chapter 11 protection.

Ford is now seen as an electronic, business model and supply chain innovator, but also has had to deal with the shadow of Microsoft’s brand.

At CES, Ford continued to outpace its rivals by launching the MyTouch system. It is my belief that they are hedging their bets about Microsoft's commitment to automotive by moving to more generally available technologies (such as using Adobe Flash for the UI rather than Microsoft’s UI or Silverlight derivative. Originally Sync was just a repurposed Zune. . . Now rather than using the Silverlight flavor in the ZuneHD, Ford stepped away from Microsoft.

It will be interesting to see what comes next. For sure Ford put its rivals on notice again. Especially those considering GenIVI which likely won’t have anything like MyTouch available until 2015. . . I wonder what Ford will have then?


  1. cool !

    "Ford is now seen as an electronic, business model and supply chain innovator, but also has had to deal with the shadow of Microsoft’s brand."

    Agree !

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