DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. President-The Americas Mark Fields and Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates reveal details of Sync, a new in-vehicle technology that will debut in the new ’08 Ford Focus.

Eventually Sync will be offered in 11 Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles.

The factory-installed system will enable hands-free calling via a Bluetooth connection as well as connectivity to MP3 players, such as Apple’s Ipod or Microsoft’s Zune.

Sync also boasts voice recognition and can convert cell-phone text messages into audio and broadcast them through the vehicle’s speaker system.

Ford declines to reveal how much Sync will cost but say it will be affordable, which is why it is debuting it on the entry-level Focus.

“In the past, (a technology like) Sync would have been offered in luxury vehicles, but we’re going to roll it out quickly and affordably,” Fields says.

Ford is aiming Sync at Generation Y, which it defines as the 57 million people born between 1981 and 1995, because they grew up with computers and the Internet, making them more technology savvy than previous generations.

Ford also says the first-time car-buyer market is one of the most rapidly growing segments, and Sync will give the Focus an advantage.

Ford will hold exclusive rights to Sync through 2008, Fields says.

Ford is not the first major player to be linked with Microsoft, which aggressively has been seeking out the auto industry. Italy’s Fiat Auto SpA recently began offering an option on select vehicle that is similar to Sync, called “Blue & Me.”

Blue & Me is a relatively inexpensive module that allows drivers to control their Bluetooth phones with voice commands, listen to incoming text messages and manage the music stored on their MP3 players plugged into a USB port.

Fields and Gates are scheduled to officially unveil Sync at the Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas later today.

bpope@wardsauto.com