Ford drops Microsoft's Windows Embedded, enabling support for Apple's CarPlay, Android Auto

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2014
Ford has abandoned its troubled Microsoft Sync automotive infotainment system for a QNX-based platform that can support Apple's CarPlay with Hands Free Siri.

Ford Sync by Microsoft

Bad news for Microsoft's carputer dreams

Ford--the second largest car maker by unit market share according to Edmunds.com--first expressed an interest in supporting Apple's CarPlay (then known as iOS in the Car) in the summer of 2013, just as Apple introduced the initiative.

While some seemed surprised by Ford's interest in Apple's iOS integration system given that the company had long partnered with Microsoft on Sync, the carmaker had earlier worked with Apple to deliver automotive iPod integration starting in 2006, a year before adopting Microsoft's Windows Embedded Automotive platform built on Windows CE.

Apple began driving automotive iPod integration in the early 2000s with evolving serial control systems that culminated in its "Made for iPod" program. In 2004, Apple launched USB iPod integration with BMW, followed by partnerships with Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari in 2005.

After releasing iPhone in 2007, Apple expanded car support to include Bluetooth wireless connectivity on both iPhones and new iPod models. That same year, Ford and Microsoft introduced Sync with support for USB and Bluetooth devices, prominently listing Apple's iPods as compatible devices.

Ford has since struggled to keep its Windows Embedded Automotive carputer platform relevant in the face of poor reviews. Engadget reported this week that, in response to customer complaints, Ford moved away from Microsoft's carputer platform in order to deliver a system that was "more responsive and less clumsy to use."Ford moved away from Microsoft's carputer platform in order to deliver a system that was "more responsive and less clumsy to use."

Less than two years ago, AutoNews Europe detailed ambitious plans by Microsoft to hold onto its car customers. It cited Pranish Kumar, group program manager for Windows Embedded Automotive, as saying, "we've been in the automotive arena for a while already, but we think we can take it a lot further."

Profits in automotive are alluring; IHS iSuppli estimated Ford Sync's core hardware to cost around $130, but Ford marketed the voice activated Sync, along with a Sirius radio and a convenience package, in a option priced at $1,250.

Selling Sync was a significant priority at Microsoft. The report described a "$70 million co-branded and integrated marketing campaign" which "leveraged the global recognition of Microsoft brand name with the tagline 'SYNC, powered by Microsoft.'"

It added that "by the end of 2009, SYNC was available on over 20 of Ford's passenger vehicle models, with the feature 'take-rate' averaging approximately 70% across the line-up."

Good news, bad news for BlackBerry

Ford is now using QNX, a real-time embedded OS platform that BlackBerry acquired in 2010 with the intent of delivering a new BlackBerry OS 10 that could compete with iOS. BlackBerry's new OS with a QNX-kernel failed to make a success out of the PlayBook tablet, and hasn't done much to turn around the company's failing fortunes in smartphones.

This summer, Ford itself announced plans to dump its corporate BlackBerry and feature phones in a plan to get "everyone on iPhones," citing advantages in security and simplicity. The car maker plans to deploy 9,300 iPhones over the next two years.

A variety of industries continue to use the QNX kernel itself. The embedded realtime OS has established a particularly entrenched niche in automotive on-board computer systems since the early 2000s, with clients including General Motors, BMW, Audi-Volkswagen and now Ford (shown below).

Ford Sync QNX


Apple has incrementally enhanced its device-centric car integration initiatives rather than attempting to push automakers to switch from their existing QNX systems to an entirely new hardware and software system based on iOS.

This allows Apple's devices to not only work with QNX vehicles, but also with carmakers associated with the rival GENIVI Alliance ("Geneva In-Vehicle Infotainment"), a Linux-based system that counts GM, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Renault-Nissan, Hyundai and BMW among its members, as well as other proprietary systems.

Apple's evolving car integration makes iPhone the computer

By creating a system where the user's iPhone is the brains, face and development platform of the car-centric apps they use, Apple has effectively rendered automotive systems using QNX, Linux and Windows Embedded Automotive as low value commodity devices for displaying its own iOS interface.

Apple's 2012 introduction of Eyes Free Siri support in iOS 6 initially allowed users to apply the mobile connectivity and computing power of their iPhone to deliver voice control of GPS, music playback and other features while driving.

Apple subsequently introduced anticipated plans to deliver "iOS in the Car" at WWDC 2013, which was later revealed to be an extension of its "Made for iOS" car integration specifications and licensing program as well as Eyes Free Siri.

In addition to Siri-based voice commands, iOS in the Car promised to export an auto-optimized version of their iPhone's user interface to their car's built-in dashboard display. While Apple had already delivered some in-dash iPod integration features, iOS in the Car promised an entire, voice-driven UI supporting interactive Maps, text messaging and audio playback.

CarPlay Maps


Earlier this year, Apple rebranded the feature as CarPlay, highlighting its similarity with AirPlay. CarPlay effectively renders an external UI on the user's iPhone and sends it via USB or wirelessly to the car's in-dash automotive system for display, relaying any user touchscreen events back to the phone along with input from microphones, dials and button interfaces built into the car.

The CarPlay architecture is also similar to Apple Watch, which will also delegate heavy-lifting computing tasks and mobile networking to the user's iPhone, enabling the watch itself to act as a thin client interface with the longest possible battery life.

CarPlay effectively renders the driver's connected iPhone the ubiquitously connected, frequently updated brain (and development platform) for car computing features, as opposed to integrated carputer systems which are rarely updated and use hardware that is typically never upgraded over the life of the vehicle.

Conversely, iOS users frequently update their devices and commonly upgrade their personal phone at least every two years, enabling Apple to deploy increasingly powerful and intelligent features into CarPlay-enabled vehicles, the screens of which essentially serve as a display for the connected iOS device.

Google copies CarPlay, claims credit for engineering the system

This summer, a year after Apple debuted iOS in the Car, Google introduced its own Android Auto, a direct copy of Apple's CarPlay concept and implementation. Google's version exposes a more complex and involved user interface, although the search giant has not yet pursued any plans to directly inject advertising into Android Auto.

Google's engineers presented their efforts during the company's IO conference as if they represented an original, unprecedented undertaking, describing Android Auto's CarPlay features as if they had independently originated at Google.



By implementing Apple's CarPlay's device-centric strategy rather than pursuing a carputer design like Microsoft or Blackberry's QNX, Android Auto can similarly work on the same kinds of in-dash hardware carmakers are already using, without needing to convince QNX licensees to switch to Android.

That's also good news for Apple, because it creates a level playing field for all vendors rather than erecting barriers where certain new vehicles only work with a specific phone-to-car integration system. It will also make it easier for Apple to adopt any new features initiated by Android, such as extended support for deeper integration into automotive control systems such as door locks, climate control and system monitoring. Apple has already patented geofenced, automotive remote control features.

Virtually all of the carmakers committed to one system have also thrown in support for the other, as both systems are relatively easy to support due to their similarity. Microsoft has also introduced its own CarPlay-like implementation for Windows Phone, which ironically wasn't supported at all in Microsoft's original Ford Sync system.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 59
    I thought from Ford's announcement that Apple CarPlay is NOT currently supported in this new launch and their is no firm date

    If so, I that this is a major miss by Ford. Also, the design of the new Sync system is beyond aweful
  • Reply 2 of 59
    ecatsecats Posts: 272member
    I was just thinking to myself how terrible the car interfaces look. You'd think car manufacturers would have a better idea in interfaces.

    Instead it's disorganised clutter again and again, especially problematic when it involves the potential of taking one's eyes off the road to use it.
  • Reply 3 of 59
    513513 Posts: 21member

    "Google's engineers presented their efforts during the company's IO conference as if they represented an original, unprecedented undertaking, describing Android Auto's CarPlay features as if they had independently originated at Google."

     

    Like, sure, Android came with the idea and then made the presentation, coded everything, in 1 week because they wanted to copy Apple.

    You know, sometimes, some companies have the same idea at the same time.

  • Reply 4 of 59
    This is another lost attempt by Microsoft to muscle into a market and set their own standards. This is no longer the 1990s where Microsoft could impose their second-rate solution on a pliable populous certain of Microsoft's superior technical standing.
  • Reply 5 of 59
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,961member
    ecats wrote: »
    I was just thinking to myself how terrible the car interfaces look. You'd think car manufacturers would have a better idea in interfaces.

    Instead it's disorganised clutter again and again, especially problematic when it involves the potential of taking one's eyes off the road to use it.

    Ever use Chrysler's 8.4" uconnect? I love it and it's praised by everyone as one of the best infotainment systems out there. It's easy to use and very responsive to anything you throw at it.
  • Reply 6 of 59
    chabigchabig Posts: 626member
    Quote:

    Like, sure, Android came with the idea and then made the presentation, coded everything, in 1 week because they wanted to copy Apple.

    You know, sometimes, some companies have the same idea at the same time.


    Check your timeline. Google's effort came one year after Apple's announcement.

  • Reply 7 of 59
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    chabig wrote: »
    Check your timeline. Google's effort came one year after Apple's announcement.
    So what? Android Wear was announced before WatchKit and there are currently smartwatches shipping with it. Does that mean Apple copied Google with Watch OS/WatchKit? Of course not.
  • Reply 8 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chabig View Post

     

    Check your timeline. Google's effort came one year after Apple's announcement.


     

    None of these systems are exactly revolutionary. Car infotainment systems have been around for a decade or more. These new offerings are merely extensions of the existing mobile offerings from their channel, which no doubt is great, easy, clean, and keeps OEMs out of software development. Otherwise you might as well say Carplay stole all their ideas from BMWs iDrive system going back to 2001 or Microsoft. 

  • Reply 9 of 59
    Automakers have moved into this area far more slowly than our glaciers are receding. There was like a decade when all we needed was an auxiliary in, just saying%u2019%u2026
  • Reply 10 of 59
    arviarvi Posts: 17member
    So they all had the same idea to make an automobile OS or a watch OS. Thinking about making something is not copying. Android Wear may have been first out the gate but its thoroughly different from Apple's watch implementation. And then, you look at Android Auto and other company's in-car-centric approach, and then look at Apple's new CarPlay implementation, and you know Apple found the right approach. The rest realized that Apple was on to something and have now followed suit. Same with the iPad, same with the full screen iPhone, same with the laptop palm rests, etc. etc. Point being... if its a good idea, it'll become common practice. We all win.
  • Reply 11 of 59

    MS's Sync for Ford is complete crap.  Every time I get a rental Ford, I'm thoroughly disappointed in how it works (or rather, doesn't work).  I just can't believe Ford signed up with MS in the first place.  You would have thought Ford's engineers and marketing folks would have recognized just how bad Sync was the first time they looked at it.  I've even been in an Explorer where the entire system rebooted while I was driving.  Not a great thing when the touch-screen system controls just about every in-car system.

  • Reply 12 of 59

    Microsoft actually hasn't been super involved in the second generation version, MyFordTouch and MyLincolnTouch. And last I checked, MS had laid off some staff from their Automotive division. But MFT has no Microsoft branding like Sync did.

  • Reply 13 of 59
    jmgregory1 wrote: »
     You would have thought Ford's engineers and marketing folks would have recognized just how bad Sync was the first time they looked at it.  

    You hit the nail.... Engineers... Most have a different thought process and use windows... So they probably did think it was good.

    Easily usable by the masses was clearly not a design parameter
  • Reply 14 of 59
    snovasnova Posts: 1,281member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jmgregory1 View Post

     

    MS's Sync for Ford is complete crap.  ...




    MS was complete crap for the BMW also. This is why it didn't get past first gen roll out on 7 series.

  • Reply 15 of 59
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    That's also good news for Apple, because it creates a level playing field for all vendors rather than erecting barriers where certain new vehicles only work with a specific phone-to-car integration system. It will also make it easier for Apple to adopt any new features initiated by Android, such as extended support for deeper integration into automotive control systems such as door locks, climate control and system monitoring.

     

    I like this new stance that DED is taking on open platforms that provide the end user choice being good news for Apple.  Apple normally doesn't go this route as they traditionally prefer closed, proprietary or exclusive systems.  Maybe DED can talk to some people at Apple because I'm willing to bet they're not nearly as happy about this open platform as he is.

     

    I also find it funny that DED says an open platform is good for Apple so that they can adopt/copy any new features created by Android.  When Apple copies, they're adopting.  When Android copies, they're stealing.  <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

     

  • Reply 16 of 59
    We were all set to buy a Ford the last two cars until my wife tried using their system. She's just to spoiled by iOS now to mess with garbage
  • Reply 17 of 59
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustomTB View Post





    You hit the nail.... Engineers... Most have a different thought process and use windows... So they probably did think it was good.



    Easily usable by the masses was clearly not a design parameter



    Very true about many engineers, however Ford's process had to involve designers too.  Unless MS was telling both teams that what they really wanted wasn't possible (which is likely how things went down), I find their system inexcusably bad.  Chrysler's system, on the other hand, is fantastic.  It's as if they watched the train wreck that was Ford MyTouch and addressed all the negatives, both functionally and visually.  I can't wait to get my new JGC SRT with it.

  • Reply 18 of 59
    jm6032jm6032 Posts: 147member

    I have owned MS Sync in a Ford product since 2009. There are no words in any language to describe what a convoluted, unusable, and downright dangerous piece of software I consider it to be.

     

    Quick example: It has a weathermap feature. If you drive for a while, your position becomes off-center (who thought that up?). If you stop you can repostion the center of the map by touching the map at the spot you want centered--one touch. If, on the other hand, you are in motion, you must exit the map and re-open it--the map won't accept touches while in motion, but, you can go through the multi-touch process of closing it and re-openint it...

     

    I am definitely not a happy camper with MS Sync.

  • Reply 19 of 59

    MS is one slow train wreck after another. Balmer really was ambitious to set his legacy, it seems.

     

    Just read an article on someone who loved the MS Windows phones, but had to give them up for iPhone (maybe it was on Techcrunch the other day) for a variety of reasons. One reason being is that MS has weak support for Windows phone and better for iOS and Android, in the app department.

     

    It would not be a surprise if MS continued to lose most consumers for phone and tablet and those go away. Maybe not if Lenovo and others continue to crank out cheaper (that MS) slates and Windows 10 is a success to some degree.

     

    You can tell MS is too big in a lot of ways and too many cooks in the kitchen. They continue to come out with products that just miss the mark. At least to me. 

  • Reply 20 of 59
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,656member
    I am just happy Ford will drop sync, I was thinking I would never buy another ford because sync sucks so much we never use on our current car.

    I think MS lock Ford into some really long term deal thus the reason they did not dump it soon and they were the last company saying they were going to work with Apples car play.
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