When the 2009 Ford F-150 was introduced last month in Detroit, most attention was paid to the ritzy 'Platinum' version of the truck – stuffed full of leather and high tech infotainment features. You'd be forgiven if you wondered if Ford had forgotten about its work truck roots.
Now, at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford is introducing a suite of new products for its 2009 F-Series pickups aimed directly at commercial customers, not high rollers.
The collection is called 'Ford Work Solutions' and some of the offerings are game changers that are going to make other truck manufacturers (and contractors at the jobsite) jealous.
The first product is an in-dash, touch screen computer running Microsoft's 'Windows Auto' operating system that turns the pickup into a mobile office.
The computer uses Sprint's broadband wireless network to access the Internet to connect the truck with an office network or a home PC. Once connected, users can remotely access documents like Microsoft Office files, QuickBooks data, and blueprints. A wireless keyboard provides the interface to the computer and a Ford certified inkjet printer can print-off hard copies of the remotely grabbed docs right in the cab.
The in-dash computer also offers birds-eye style navigation assistance by GPS equipment maker Garmin. Navigation features include: real-time traffic stats and re-routing, points-of-interest lookup (hotels, restaurants, etc), Ford dealer locations, real-time fuel prices, and real-time weather.
There's also a USB port for connecting peripheral equipment and the printer, plus a flash memory slot for extra file storage.
Bluetooth connectivity is standard, so you can connect a Bluetooth capable phone with the truck for hands-free calling and to send and receive text messages using the display and wireless keyboard.
The commercial in-dash computer is different from both Ford’s consumer-oriented Sync hands-free entertainment and calling product and the Sirius satellite infotainment and navigation unit for the 2009 Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum F-150 and Lariat and King Ranch Super Duty pickups.
The Microsoft-based computer will only be available in the work-oriented XL, XLT, and FX4 F-150, and XL and XLT Super Duty. It will only have terrestrial radio.
Users will have to pay a monthly fee (that hasn’t been announced yet) to use the in-dash computer with Sprint’s wireless network. Ford reps say the fee will be, "very reasonable and affordable."
Kudos to Ford for delivering on the “Mobile Office Environment” concept that was first promised in 1999 by General Motors and Lear Corporation in the GMC Sierra Professional technology demonstrator.