Earlier this week we spoke with Microsoft, who confirmed that they would be partnering with Ford on a new in-car tech initiative some time in the New Year. Beyond that, Redmond was pretty tight-lipped, declining to comment further on what shape the partnership would take. Well, thanks to Engadget, we now have a clearer idea. According to an article published today, Ford and Microsoft are planning to announce the availability of the Blue&Me in the United States with coinciding announcements at CES and the Detroit Auto Show.
Apparently, the system "will have cross-platform smartphone support (i.e., not just Windows Mobile) with Bluetooth, SAP (i.e., SIM Access Profile for contacts, downloads, voice dialing, etc.)". Microsoft already has a behind-the-scenes role in many car tech systems, as its OS is the backbone of many factory-installed navigation units (for companies such as Volvo and Honda), and aftermarket systems, such as the Pioneer AVIC Z-1.
We saw Blue&Me, an in-car entertainment and education system based on Microsoft Windows Automotive, earlier this year at the Geneva Auto Show. Currently it is available on Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo models in Europe, enabling drivers to use voice commands and steering wheel buttons to control cell phones and portable music players, which are connected by a USB jack. If Ford does integrate the system into its cars, it will be the second significant third-party car tech deal in a year, following its announcement that it is to offer iPod adapters in the majority of its 2007 model lineup.