Playing favorites

Ford’s SYNC in-car entertainment system, appearing in several 2008 blue-oval vehicles, was developed with Microsoft, and you might think that for this reason alone, it would work fairly well with Microsoft’s Zune music player, perhaps less well with Apple’s iPod.

Or at least I might think that, and I would be wrong:

Zune: You connect it, it says “Connected” on the screen just as if you hooked it up to a computer. However, it seems when you play a track, it will read it over the USB and play it through the Sync system itself. If you try to fast forward a track through the Sync system, it goes achingly slow. By achingly, I mean seconds at a time. So if you have a long track, it’s going to take you a long time just to fast forward a few minutes. I thought this was the norm for the Sync system. Then I bought the iPod and used that.

iPod: You connect it, and the screen actually changes. It shows the Ford logo on the screen of the iPod itself, not just a basic generic message. Then I noticed something else too. It actually will load up your current on-the-go playlist if you left one on the iPod before connecting it. The Zune doesn’t support that. Then I tried to fast forward. It was the same exact one as the iPod itself. Fast and you could hear the music in the background. This means unlike the Zune, the Microsoft Sync system actually uses the iPod to play the track, and then just pumps the audio signal through USB. That means it looks like the fast forward command goes straight to the iPod and plays the track on the iPod, unlike the Zune which seems to just go through the Sync system itself.

Costa Tsiokos is also surprised, but not too surprised to offer an explanation of this phenomenon:

Seriously, I’m surprised MS didn’t try to leverage this placement to at least make iPod interfacing buggy, in contrast to a smoother experience with a Zune or other media players. I’m guessing Ford pretty much insisted on no funny business, recognizing the iPod’s ubiquity with the public, including prospective car-buyers.

For some reason, this reminds me of the time (circa 1988) when Sony built a VHS machine to sell alongside its fading Beta boxes.





1 comment

  1. Dan B »

    17 December 2007 · 7:59 pm

    Seriously, I’m surprised MS didn’t try to leverage this placement to at least make iPod interfacing buggy, in contrast to a smoother experience with a Zune

    They tried. They screwed up the sabotage attempt.

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