Ford is announcing a new infotainment system for its Ford and Lincoln vehicles today. Among its features: a streamlined, tablet-like interface with gestures such as swiping and pinch-to-zoom; smarter voice recognition; easier access to apps like Pandora and Spotify; Siri support for iPhone users; and the ability to update itself over your Wi-Fi network as your car sits in the garage or on the driveway. Some models will get the new system in 2015, and the company expects it to be available across all of its lines by the end of 2016.
Its name—Sync 3—suggests continuity, evolution, and close ties to the systems which preceded it. But in fact, Sync 3 isn't the third version of anything.
Previous versions of Sync were created in collaboration with Microsoft and based on an operating system currently known as Windows Embedded Automotive. In a move which first surfaced as a rumor last February, Sync 3 ditches Microsoft entirely in favor of QNX, an industrial-strength operating system owned by BlackBerry. (It also provides the underpinnings for BlackBerry 10 phones such as the Passport.)
Ford would rather that people focus on Sync 3's new features than on corporate intrigue involving its software partners. In fact, its press release about Sync 3 mentions neither Microsoft nor QNX—a pretty striking omission given that it once trumpeted its partnership with Microsoft. (Ford vehicles with existing flavors of Sync even have little plaques mounted on their dashboards touting Microsoft's involvement.)
Even if Ford isn't anxious to talk about it, the switch to QNX is an eminently sensible move. The software already has over 50% market share in the automotive business, counting BMW, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Mercedes, Toyota, and others among its customers. Ford is pretty much adopting an industry standard.