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Hyundai Deal With Microsoft ‘Not Another Sync’

A voice recognition system for 11 different languages and the ability to record songs directly from the radio are two differentiating features.

NAMYANG, South Korea – Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group’s just announced deal to co-develop a new generation of in-vehicle infotainment systems with Microsoft Corp. may sound like a replay of Ford Motor Co.’s Sync deal, but it’s not, the South Korean auto maker insists.

Systems powered by the current version of Microsoft’s Auto software platform are available in Ford vehicles in North America and Fiat Automobiles Group SpA vehicles in Europe and South America. Hyundai is the first Asian auto maker to adopt the technology.

“It is a completely different system than Ford Sync,” Hyun-Soon Lee, president-research and development, corporate product planning and strategy division, says at a luncheon with journalists here at the auto maker’s R&D complex.

Lee, along with HKAG President Eui-Sun Chung and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates signed a long-term technology development agreement May 6 in Seoul.

The two companies plan to use the Microsoft Auto software platform to bring new in-car technology to Hyundai and Kia drivers worldwide.

HKAG officials are reluctant to be specific about system details because it won’t appear on vehicles until 2010.

When pressed, Lee says two key differentiating features from Ford’s Sync will be a voice-recognition system for 11 different languages and the ability to record songs directly from the radio and store up to 4,000 tunes on a hard drive.

The system first will be offered on vehicles in North America and expanded worldwide later. It will be standard on Hyundai’s higher-end models and optional on its less-expensive vehicles, Lee says.

An HKAG spokesman tells Ward’s the agreement will create new ways of bringing products and services to economy-minded buyers.

“We’re even looking into services that carry advertising as a means of subsidizing the cost of some services,” he says.

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