Ford has announced its very own factory-installed, in-car communications and entertainment system that offers support for iPods.

The technology is based on Microsoft Auto software (Sync), and supports virtually any mobile phone or digital media player. Drivers can operate their iPod (or other device) using voice commands or the vehicle's steering wheel or radio controls.

"Sync is what today's generation and today's drivers demand in connectivity," says Derrick Kuzak, group vice president, product development at the Ford Motor Company. "Not only does it offer hands-free phone operation and iPod connectivity, it's built on a software platform that is upgradeable and will allow us to offer new features by simply upgrading the software."

Users can plug their devices into the system using a USB 2.0 port or using Bluetooth. Supported formats include MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and PCM.

"More than 80 per cent of US households use mobile phones, and 60 million digital music devices have been sold. That's a 50 per cent increase from just 2005," Kuzak said. "With such market growth led by consumer need, Sync is the right new technology at the right time for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles."

Sync will debut in the US this year on the 2008 Ford Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred, Edge, Freestyle, Explorer and Sport Trac; Mercury Milan, Montego and Mountaineer; and Lincoln MKX and MKZ. The technology will be on all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles in the near future.

Features include:

Voice-activated, hands-free calling and control of the music player;
Uninterrupted connections: No need to hang up in the middle of a phone call as you enter your vehicle. Simply touch the Telephone Button on the steering wheel, and Sync will instantly connect to a Bluetooth phone.
Audible text messages: Sync will convert text messages from your phone to audio and read it.
Caller ID, call waiting, conference calling, caller log, a list of contacts, a signal strength icon, and a phone battery charge icon located on the radio's display screen.
Sync is fluent in English, French and Spanish.