Ford teams with Microsoft on cloud-based platform for over-the-air updates to connected cars

Around three months after Ford Motor Co. chose BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) subsidiary QNX's technology to power its Sync 3 in-car technology platform, and not technology from longtime partner Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Ford is now returning to Microsoft. Ford has contracted with Microsoft for the software giant to deliver cloud-based wireless updates to its connected cars.

When Ford chose QNX for Sync 3 in February, the company stressed it would continue working with Microsoft, including on older versions of Sync. Thus, the companies' new partnership is an indication that there is no bad blood between the car maker and software giant--or at least not enough to derail their partnership.

Sync is the in-car infotainment platform Ford uses for tis connected car, but the new service will be called the Ford Service Delivery Network, which will be powered by Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform. Ford said that the service will let it quickly deliver new connected features to its Ford and Lincoln brands, scale up global availability of services and provide flexibility for future connected car offerings. 

"As consumers shift toward more cloud-based services, the Ford Service Delivery Network architecture is a strategic approach to keep vehicles up-to-date and relevant throughout the vehicle ownership period by making it easy to add or evolve services," Sanjay Ravi, Microsoft's senior director of worldwide manufacturing, wrote in a company blog post. "Microsoft Azure provides a global common cloud platform that allows Ford to deliver services worldwide and scale quickly to reach its broad customer base. This means that Ford can send updates as they become available, ensuring customers will have the latest technology as it becomes available."

The platform will let Ford update lots of software on its cars, including display screen graphics and voice-recognition software, according to the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ noted that the cloud connectivity will be available this year with the latest generation of Ford's Sync 3 system, which will be available on some 2015 models and across the company's lineup by the end of 2016.

Microsoft said the Ford Service Delivery Network will let Ford make over-the-air software updates as well as expand the availability of MyFord and MyLincoln Mobile connected services. Those services offer features like scheduled remote start, vehicle finder, and vehicle status (such fuel or charge level, tire pressure).

The platform could let Ford, and potentially other automakers, update their cars and perhaps even diagnose issues without customers needing to take their cars into dealerships.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Microsoft blog post
- see this Reuters article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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