Ford Sync One-Ups GM’s OnStar

VisiCalc was the killer app which brought Apple to the forefront early on in the computer wars.  Some have said that “Angry Birds” has been one of the reasons smart-phones and tablets have been so successful.  Now manufacturers and software vendors alike have been searching for the killer-app for the in-car navigation and assistance technologies, and the two big US automakers have taken substantially different routes in their quests.

GM was one of the first on the scene with its OnStar service.  With OnStar, car drivers and passengers alike can talk to a remote operator, have their car report maintenance issues and get life-saving help after an accident using an integrated cell phone system hooked up to the car’s computing and communications systems.  OnStar’s tight integration into GM’s cars has been an asset up until now when integration into users’ devices has become more important.  Ford’s approach offers some real long-term benefits over GM’s.

Ford Motor Company’s “Sync” system is designed to work with your Bluetooth-enabled smart (or dumb) phone.  It ties your phone’s contacts and dialing capabilities into the car’s telematics systems, and its most recent feature adds a live operator feature so you can talk with an operator to get help.  Ford doesn’t require any additional monthly payments (as you have to do with OnStar) and it gives Ford the flexibility to extend its capabilities to and from your smartphone.  That’s where the real win is.

Ford’s Sync allows third-party developers to build applications which tie directly into your car.  Music sites such as Pandora are already taking advantage of the expandability inherent in Sync to allow you to listen to your favorite artists whenever you want, where you want.  New navigation software helps to direct your car — all through your phone.

Although GM has had a hit on its hands with OnStar, expect Ford to have a long-term advantage with its Sync system.  Congratulations to Ford.