Why should drivers be without Twitter?
That's the question Ford (NYSE: F ) chief executive Alan Mullaly is asking today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. His company plans to add a method for speaking tweets to drivers via Sync, an in-car digital automation and entertainment system it co-developed with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , USA TODAY reports.
Ford's timing is equal parts intriguing and crazy. It's intriguing because CES is the ultimate gadget show, and Twitter is the new "new" thing in geek chic. Announcing at this show is like previewing a prized film at Cannes. Everyone's watching.
But good publicity is only part of the equation. By teaming with Twitter for Sync, Ford is signaling a desire to be more aggressive about selling premium vehicles that boast premium features. Every carmaker wants the same thing. It's why you see former NFL star and current NFL analyst Howie Long on TV pitching Sync rival, OnStar, as a differentiator for GM vehicles and a must-have for drivers.
Twitter isn't a must-have for drivers. Not Ford's version, anyway. USA TODAY says that Ford plans to allow Sync to speak tweets aloud to drivers. No other interaction allowed.
If that weren't bad enough -- strip Twitter of interactivity and all you're left with is digital voyeurism -- several state legislatures have taken up debate over banning texting while driving. There's also a budding market for technology that prevents teens from using their smartphones while behind the wheel. TASER (Nasdaq: TASR ) introduced just such a device this week.
I recognize that listening to a stream of tweets isn't the same thing, but it's hardly a stretch to imagine Sync's voice-activated system being recalibrated to both send and receive tweets. How would that work practically? Would it be distracting enough for legislators to care?
Twitter is proving to be transformative to some businesses. Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) is making good money with the micro-blogger. Gap (NYSE: GPS ) and J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) used the service to advertise deals during the holiday shopping season, and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) saw enough promise in Twitter to try and acquire it.
Ford may benefit from Twitter one day, too. But it won't be with this technology; this version is out-of-sync with what users expect from Sync.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. Would you tweet and drive if given the chance? Is Twitter becoming more a part of your daily routine, or are you still on the sidelines? Tell us your story using the comments box below.