Ford Takes Twitter for a Ride

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.

Ford is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Microsoft is also a Motley Fool Options recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy suffered an overdose of M&M's over the holidays. It's doing fine now, thanks for asking.


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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 January 08, 2010, at 11:12 AM, TMFKris wrote:

    Doesn't anyone want quiet time away from all the connectivity and chatter? I'm not on Twitter; I can't get through all the incoming stimulus available from other sources, real and digital. What was it about being pecked to death by ducks?

    Kris (Motley Fool copyeditor)

  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2010, at 11:19 AM, lemoneater wrote:

    I agree with you, Kris!

  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2010, at 11:34 AM, rmackinnon wrote:

    I was going to comment but Kris said it perfectly. Also, it will be distracting...

  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2010, at 11:37 AM, pondee619 wrote:

    "technology that prevents teens from using their smartphones while behind the wheel" Why stop at teens? No one should use a phone (smart (an oxymoron if ever there was one) or otherwise) while driving. My God folks, what is so important?

    Why would I care what you are doing at this very moment? Why would you care what I'm doing now?

    Twitter, the cotton candy of communication.

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