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Microsoft is to work with Ford to supply voice-activated software that will allow drivers to make mobile calls or play songs stored on digital music players without taking their hands off the wheel.

The system, dubbed Sync, will be included in around a dozen 2008 models of Ford cars, including the Focus and Explorer, with plans to expand it across its full range of production cars in 2009. Ford hopes the technology will help increase the attractiveness of its cars to potential buyers. Ford's sales of cars and vans slipped eight per cent last year, a steeper downturn than the 2.6 per cent the industry as a whole faced, as its market share slid from 17.4 per cent to 16.4 per cent, Bloomberg reports.

For Microsoft, the deal will help to extend the role of its software further outside its core PC, server and home entertainment businesses. Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed.

The technology involved is similar to software Microsoft sold to Fiat last year. General Motor's Onstar system fulfills a similar function, the BBC adds.

Sync will be designed to work with both Microsoft's Zune and Apple's rival iPod music players, allowing driver to select tracks by voice commands alone. Motorists with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones can use the technology to make or receive calls using voice commands or buttons fitted to driver's steering wheels.

And as this is a story about Microsoft and cars, who can resist that old favourite - If Microsoft made cars. ®

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