SAN JOSE, Calif. - In the latest boost to its dominance in portable music players, Apple Computer Inc. is teaming with General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. to integrate the iPod into car audio systems.
GM and Ford are the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 automakers, and the new alliances mean the iconic audio gadget will now be compatible with more than 70 percent of the new 2007 model vehicles sold in the United States, Apple said Thursday.
GM and Mazda will offer iPod integration on all new models, Apple said, and Ford will offer it on many of its Ford and Lincoln Mercury models later this year.
Carmakers say they are responding to a booming trend in which sales of iPods and other MP3 players are predicted to more than double from 58 million units in 2005 to 132 million in 2009.
The iPod holds about a 75 percent share of the portable player market in the U.S.
Working with the iPod maker is part of increasing effort by Ford and other car companies to make it easier on drivers to access a variety of gadgets - from cell phones and navigation systems to music players - while on the road.
"Consumers are listening to music, they're messaging each other, and they want to engage in all those activities in their vehicles but in a safe manner," said Doug VanDagens, director of Ford's product and business development in the electronics group.
Germany's BMW AG two years ago incorporated iPods directly into its car audio systems, allowing users to plug the music player into an adapter that goes into the glove box and access the iPod's music library through the car's standard controls.
By last fall, as sales of the iPod continued to surge, Apple had signed similar deals with about a dozen more car companies, including Acura, Audi, Ferrari, Honda, Nissan, and Volkswagen.
Ford said Thursday it will offer the iPod integration as a dealer-installed option called "TripTunes Advanced." An adapter that doubles as a battery-charging station would go in either the glove box or center storage console. Users would then be able to control the iPod through buttons on the steering wheel or the radio. Playlists, artists, and other song information will also be displayed on the cars' systems.
In addition, Ford plans to add auxiliary audio input jacks on nearly half of its lineup, starting this fall. Tunes from any gadget - iPods, other MP3 or CD music players, cell phones and game handhelds - will then be playable on the cars' audio systems without the need for extra adapters or FM transmitters.
Demand for built-in satellite radio features has also prompted Ford to expand its relationship with Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. VanDagens said more than 90 percent of Ford and Lincoln Mercury cars will offer satellite radio by the 2008 model year.