The companies said they will design telematics systems that let drivers access Web services and use a Bluetooth connection to tap into personal address books and contacts from a handset. They will also be able to listen to music stored in players via a USB connection in the dashboard. All of the systems will feature voice activation, the companies said.
Fiat and Microsoft said the partnership will be long term, without divulging any further terms of the deal.
The new systems will feature Windows Automotive software and will be based on standard hardware. Fiat's component arm, Magneti Marelli, will develop the hardware on which the systems are integrated, using a reference design to be developed by Microsoft and Fiat. The companies said they plan to make the system interoperable with the vehicles' controller area network for diagnostic data.
Although efforts to marry cars and computers have so far failed to make a dent in the market, Microsoft has been trying to convince automakers to use in-car computers for entertainment, navigation and information devices that connect to e-mail and calendar information.