CES 2010: Ford Promises a Smarter Digital Dashboard

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says future generations of his company's cars will include new mobile applications and the ability to easy access Facebook, Twitter and podcasts.

Las Vegas -- During his keynote address here Thursday morning, Ford CEO Alan Mulally sounded more like the chief of a software company than an automaker, telling attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show that Ford will continue to drive innovation through embedded applications running on its Microsoft-powered Sync software.

"Last year at this show, we showed you our latest innovations using Sync technology," Mulally said. "A lot has happened since last year. Ford is in a different place and continues to make great products even though the world around us is constantly changing."

Mulally pointed out that today more than 60 million people are using Twitter, the social networking and microblogging site, up from just 4 million at this same time last year. Twitter, along with Facebook, and other niche-type social networking sites and podcasts will now be easily accessed through Ford's (NYSE: F) revamped onboard connectivity system.

"We figure out that connecting [drivers] through their own mobile phones was the way to go," he said. "Our engineers embrace this technology and our new interactive, safe and intuitive interface will be key to driving our growth in the future. Our engineers embrace this compelling vision and Ford has made a commitment to have these features in every model -- not just luxury models."

During his address, Mulally noted the increased acceptance and popularity of Ford's Sync system has not only resulted in a more informed and engaged driver, but actually helped differentiate from its competitors, domestic and foreign alike.

He said 32 percent of respondents to a recent Ford study said Sync -- which is powered by Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Auto software -- was either a "critical" or "important" factor in determining whether or not to buy a Ford model.

Eighty-one percent of heavy users reported they were satisfied with the system and 77 percent said they would recommend the system and, most important, the car to their friends and family.

Ford will roll out a new development program dubbed American Journey 2.0 for university students to take all this data collected from the onboard computing system and combine with other data in the cloud to create new "relevant" features and applications.

For example, Mulally said, if everyone on a particular road begins to turn on their fog lamps and windshield wipers, that data could be shared through a social networking site like to Twitter to let people know it's raining on a particular stretch of a freeway.

Mulally also said Ford will unveil a new software developer's kit this year for strategic partners that will eventually be shared with the developer community to dream up the next generation of auto-specific Web 2.0 applications.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president global product development, summed it up: "The sky, or should I say, the cloud is the limit."

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.

Tags: Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, social networking, CES

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