Microsoft Expands Auto Offerings to Other Manufacturers

Microsoft announced today that its voice software will come loaded into cars produced by Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor Co. beginning in November.

Select Kia and Hyundai models worldwide will come equipped with the same Microsoft technology that powers Ford's Sync starting in November, when Ford Motor Co.'s one-year exclusivity agreement with Microsoft ends. The software, which includes voice-activated controls for Bluetooth-enabled phones and MP3 players, came equipped in most 2008 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models and played a part in the company selling an estimated 130,000 models in the United States.

Marketed under Microsoft Auto, the automobile-specific software allows users to activate music devices and wireless technology using basic voice commands. Targeting an increasingly tech-saavy, younger consumer base, the Sync also capitalized on legislation passed in some areas restricting the use of mobile or other electronic devices while driving. Microsoft Auto's success in the field reflected the increasing demand for speech-enabled applications in hands-busy, eyes-busy environments.

In addition to Hyundai and Kia, Microsoft will be free to license its software to any automobile manufacturer in November. The newest version of that technology will come with additional features, none of which Microsoft would yet disclose. Some blogs have rumored that the newest version will come equipped with navigation devices and enhanced safety features, all activated by voice.

The U.S. is not the first country to use Microsoft Auto technology in cars -- in 2006, Fiat Auto Group extended the service to Europe and South America.

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