Microsoft Can Still Fight for its Place on Ford Dashboards


Ford is putting Microsoft software in infotainment options when you buy this F-350 truck today. The next generation of Fords may still come with Microsoft inside.

A week ago, rumor had it that Ford (NYSE: F  ) isn't just looking for a new infotainment systems provider, but that it had already decided to boot out incumbent SYNC system builder Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) in favor of a QNX-based alternative from BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) .

The rumor had some credence because Ford owners have not been happy with their Microsoft-powered SYNC systems for some time, and QNX already comes factory-installed in high-quality vehicles from BMW and Audi, among others.

Microsoft investors took the potential bad news to heart, and the stock underperformed the rest of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) as the rumor made the rounds.

MSFT Chart

MSFT data by YCharts.

But yesterday, CNET scribes snuck up to Ford representatives attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and asked them point-blank about the future of SYNC infotainment systems.

"SYNC 1 and 2 was done with Microsoft but we are not married with them. For us, it's a supplier, so every time we keep evaluating is it the right partner," said Pim van der Jagt, managing director at the Ford Research Center in Aachen, Germany.

But Microsoft is not out of the running for Generation 3 yet, and BlackBerry is most certainly not the anointed replacement -- yet, anyway. "We are spec'ing out our requirements for the next generation: what we want to do, what features we want to add, what functionality. Then you go through a normal supply selection process. Those requirements for the next generation get sent out to everybody ... and they come back with offers," van der Jagt clarified.

So BlackBerry is just one of several names under consideration for the next SYNC design, and Microsoft is actively bidding on the contract.

The market reaction to this bit of investigative reporting was swift and strong. Both stocks decoupled from a moderately positive day on the Dow and other major market trackers: Microsoft is skyrocketing and BlackBerry investors are dumping shares (albeit on low volume).

MSFT Chart

MSFT data by YCharts.

Like Microsoft, BlackBerry is still in the running. But the Ford contract isn't the slam-dunk win that speculators saw in last weekend's Ford rumors. That's yet another reminder that rumor-mongering isn't a great basis for investment strategies.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 1:28 AM, LouisTewl wrote:

    It is hard to be "respectful" about this "story." Sure, any pre-qualified suppliers can BID on it, but can they meet the spec? What a "representative" tells a couple of writers who "sneak up to him" at a convention and what is happening in reality are two different things.

    Blackberry has a lot of strong proprietary technology that has already been successfully used in 100's of car models, and Microsoft has given Ford a big blueprint of what it, and its customers DON'T want.

    This "story" doesn't reflect at all the reality behind what is going on in this area, and has little to do with BBRY's one-day weakness BBRY was back UP 1.4% to $10.14 in after-hours trading.

    This story smacks of just more "me too" Balckberry bashing.

    Read this story from Computerworld for the reality behind Ford's thinking and the open-architecture standards being developed by the auto industry:

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9246597/Why_Ford_is_d...

    T

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 10:01 PM, UhOh wrote:

    What do you know about what customers want? My wide had a Toyota Highlander which had an inferior entertainment/nav System. I bought a Focus and loved it. After that we bought an Explorer and because of the sync and better interior is

    much better.

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