MWC ’14: Ford Shifts Sync to BlackBerry’s QNX and Reveals Tech-Forward Focus

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Auto brands are sure to make lots of news in the connected-car space at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, but the biggest news in the field already seems to be out: Ford is ditching Microsoft for BlackBerry’s QNX in Sync, its in-car infotainment system.

According to Bloomberg, Ford is going to base the next-generation Sync system on the QNX software that BlackBerry acquired when it bought QNX Software Systems in 2010. Using QNX will be less expensive than licensing Microsoft technology and will improve the flexibility and speed of the next Sync system, the publication said.

Sure, BlackBerry, the parent company and brand, are troubled in the cutthroat mobile technology industry, but QNX remains vital in the exploding auto-mobility business. For instance, at the Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm and QNX are demonstrating a Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG that has been modified to showcase the latest features of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon connectivity system.[more]

But BlackBerry isn’t the only one with an image problem. Sync has been sinking for three years beneath claims of user-unfriendliness that has been painfully documented for Ford by the brand’s overall decline in important third-party measures of customer satisfaction such as J.D. Power and Consumer Reports surveys. Ford and its criticis have identified the problems mainly as user-interface issues that Ford has been trying to correct.

While the company hasn’t tried to finger its partnership with Microsoft as the deep source of such problems, Ford does have to keep working to improve Sync so that it once again becomes a marketing and product asset for Ford, as it was initially several years ago, and not a liability as other brands’ connectivity systems catch up to and surpass Sync.

At Mobile World Congress, Volvo is showing off its new “Roam Delivery” service that uses a smartphone or tablet to inform car owners when there is a delivery waiting to be dropped off. Package services could use the car, wherever it is, as an “address” for delivery using digital access to the vehicle, instead of requiring recipients to wait around home.

And RealVNC, a UK-based technology company, is showcasing in Barcelona a system that can show multiple simultaneous videos streaming to several rear-seat entertainment screens.

While Ford has yet to comment on the Microsoft-BlackBerry swap, it has been busy touting its 2015 Ford Focus on the floor of MWC. Albeit an odd place for a vehicle debut, Ford is taking care to highlight the new Focus’ biggest selling points—technology. The updated sedan, which will be available in the second half of 2014, includes updates to the company’s MyFord Touch system, SYNC 2 functionality and an updated AppLink system for smartphone connectivity. 

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