Microsoft Corp. says it is taking its software deeper into the automobile.
In addition to running voice-controlled communications systems similar to Ford Sync and Fiat Blue & Me, the next version of Microsoft Auto will be able to run a car's entire built-in audio system. It can tune the radio, play a CD and transfer a CD's audio tracks to the car's audio hard drive.
If the same software can run everything, automakers don't need to install separate hardware to run the communications system and the stereo, said Velle Kolde, senior product manager for Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit. He said the functions can be designed into a single piece of hardware, thus reducing costs.
The Microsoft Auto 4.0 operating system is scheduled to go on the market this spring.
Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group is the first automaker to say it will use the new software. Last year the Korean company announced a deal with Microsoft, but so far neither Hyundai nor Kia has revealed specific applications for the software. The automaker plans to release vehicles featuring Microsoft's technology next year, Kolde said.
Ford uses a slightly older version of Microsoft Auto for Sync.