At Auto China 2012, Ford and Microsoft unveiled "multilanguage functionality" in Ford SYNC with the all-new Focus, an in-car infotainment system powered by the Windows Embedded Automotive software platform.
"With the introduction of the Focus, SYNC will feature Mandarin as its interfacing language, recognizing wide-ranging accents from 13 provinces, while also responding to English commands. Spoken by more than 1.2 billion people, the Mandarin language has subtleties that necessitated extensive research to allow for the differences in the pronunciation of the same word," Microsoft said.
"These are incredibly exciting times for Ford in Asia," said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa. "So far, Ford's investments in China and across Asia represent its largest and most rapid global expansion in 50 years."
"This expansion will help us realize an increase in global sales by about 50 percent from 2010 to about 8 million vehicles annually by mid-decade. Building new manufacturing plants in China helps lay the foundation for that growth and reconfirms our commitment to China, and we expect to have sales of about 30 million vehicles by 2020 as a result," added Hinrichs.
Also, at the CeBit show in Hanover, Kevin Dallas, gm Microsoft Windows Embedded, revealed that Microsoft is working with Ford, BMW and others to make vehicles more connected.
"By 2030, city streets will teem with small, driverless cars whose wireless capabilities direct traffic flow smoothly, rendering traffic lights unnecessary, car designers and automotive visionaries say. The cars themselves will be made of collapsible, lightweight material, allowing them to be tucked into the tiniest parking crevices."
"Cloud computing will enable riders to work or play games during their commutes while listening to their favorite music as chosen by the car," says Dallas.
Basically, your car could become a rolling 'thin client,' a cloud-connected computer capable of harnessing the power of the cloud to go far beyond the capabilities of today's smartphones or other mobile devices.
Changes in transportation infrastructure and policy, coupled with technology advances, could make this all possible in the not-too-distant future, say Mark Boyadjis, senior analyst at market researcher IHS Automotive, an industry consulting firm.
Within 20 years, not as many people will own cars. In fact, they will share them, Boyadjis predicts.
The future took a step closer to reality this year when Nevada became the first place anywhere to issue license plates to self-driving cars, allowing Google, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors to further develop and refine robo-driving on the state's 25,000 miles of road.
The wild card is how humans will react.
"It will be a different kind of automotive experience," Boyadjis says. "But for it to take shape, we need a seismic change in people's attitudes toward cars … and early adoption of technology (by) consumers, automakers and infrastructure."
In other Microsoft news,
Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. has just published an initial open source prototype implementation of HTTP Speed+Mobility.
"The prototype implements the websocket-based session layer described in the proposal, as well as parts of the multiplexing logic incorporated from Google's SPDY proposal. The code does not support header compression yet, but it will in upcoming refreshes," writes Adalberto Foresti on Interoperability @ Microsoft blog.
"The open source software comprises a client implemented in C# and a server implemented in Node.js running on Windows Azure. The client is a command line tool that establishes a connection to the server and can download a set of web pages that include html files, scripts, and images," Foresti explained.
The prototype is available for download on html5labs.com, where you will also find pointers to the source code.