Sunday, April 14, 2024

Microsoft Takes Kia Motors for a Ride

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Automating in-car entertainment, information, and communications functions via voice recognition technology has been an important Microsoft goal for more than a decade. But it’s also been a slow uphill fight.

First on board Microsoft’s bandwagon was Ford in 2007, then Italian automaker Fiat.

Next week at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 in Las Vegas, Microsoft plans to announce that Kia Motors is the latest manufacturer to sign up to use its Windows Embedded Auto software. However, where Ford’s offering is called Sync, the Kia in-car system will be dubbed UVO, Microsoft confirmed Thursday.

UVO, reports said is short for “your voice.”

The Kia deal itself isn’t really new, however. Microsoft and South Korea-based Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group (HKAG) announced the long-term deal in May 2008.

At that time, Kia officials said that the first of its Microsoft voice-controlled infotainment systems would debut in U.S. markets in 2010.

Microsoft is keeping mostly mum on next week’s announcement. The software giant faces a familiar rival when it comes to car integration — Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL). Over 90 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. have an option for connectivity to the iPod music player, according to Apple.

“We can confirm that the official name of Kia’s in-car infotainment system is ‘UVO, powered by Microsoft,'” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. The spokesperson also confirmed that an announcement regarding UVO will be made next week.

Due to the holidays, several calls to U.S.-based Kia spokespersons were unreturned at press time. Hyundai itself has not announced its own Microsoft-based offering yet.

Ballmer’s CES keynote will take place at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday, Jan. 6, and will be available as a webcast.

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