January 08, 2007
CD death watch: Car stereos

Another step on the CD death march: New cars are starting to come with stereos that don't have CD players.

CD players in automobiles could be sent the way of eight-track tapes by in-dash systems such as one Ford and Microsoft are jointly producing.

The "Sync" system being unveiled today at the North American International Auto Show connects popular iPods and all other digital music players to in-dash software through a USB port.

Drivers will be able to pick songs, artists or genres using voice activation or controls on the steering wheel.


Sync ratchets up the car electronics war as struggling Ford tries to compete with General Motors's OnStar system, DaimlerChrysler's MyGIG in-dash hard drive storage system and similar devices offered by other manufacturers.

It gives Ford leadership, at least for now, in what is becoming an increasingly competitive race in cabin electronics, said Kevin Reale, an AMR Research Inc. automotive analyst who has been briefed by Microsoft on the Sync system.

"It's going to give them some competitive differentiation," said Reale, who predicted that other manufacturers will catch up quickly with other electronics suppliers.


The whole race places the venerable CD in danger of extinction. Sync can even take music off a small USB thumb drive, ending the need to fumble with multiple CDs.

In fact, Ford already is discussing whether it needs to offer CD players in future models, said Gary Jablonski, the company's manager of infotainment systems.

"Is there a day when the CD player disappears from the vehicle? It seems likely," Jablonski said.

Now that I actually own an iPod, I'm trying to do what I can to overcome my initial wussiness about them. When we start shopping for our next car, I'll put this on the feature list to consider. May or may not affect the final decision, but I'll want to have it in the mix. When the time comes, I'll let you know what we do.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 08, 2007 to Music | TrackBack

When we were looking for an inexpensive car to replace the one we'd sold when we didn't need two in Jersey City, we found that almost everyone offered at least minimal iPod compatibility. Saturn has one, so does the Volkswagon we chose.

Usually, this meant they'd added a stereo input jack (retail cost for one: $0.39 at Radio Shack). Given the economics of being "iPod compatible", that's a pretty damn cheap way to get a feature on the checklist.

The VW also had satellite radio. I told them I didn't want it, but they threw it in because the model I wanted already had it. I use the iPod jack almost daily and let the satellite radio subscription lapse.

Now we're considering replacing the stereo with one that doesn't have satellite radio but does offer iPod control, not just an input jack.

I'm not ready to give up on my CD player, though. I need to be able to listen to the album I bought in the mall record store while driving home to rip it.

Posted by: Michael Croft on January 8, 2007 7:13 AM

If the car you get doesn't have one, you can always get an after-market part to plug your ipod into the stereo, and keep a car charger as well (though some cars now have a 12v outlet). Or just take the whole stereo out and get an after-market one that supports the ipod.

It's pretty clear that in the long term future, we'll move away from one storage unit per item and move to one storage unit per person.

Posted by: Nick Beaudrot on January 8, 2007 10:21 PM