Why Ford, Microsoft, Pandora Should Hate AT&T

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I drove a 2013 Ford ( F) Taurus for about 10 days on vacation.

Even though I have been car-less since 2000, I appreciate a good ride. The lady at the counter sold me on a $10 per day upgrade to the Taurus when she said "it's loaded with the touchscreen and everything."

Given my line of work, I figured it made sense to have hands-on experience using Ford's in-auto entertainment system, Sync. The experience would help inform opinions on Ford and its direct partners in the endeavor -- namely Microsoft ( MSFT) -- as well as indirect collaborators, ranging from Pandora ( P) to Nokia ( NOK) to AT&T ( T).

It's a tangled web we do not spend enough time thinking about. We tend to stop at the obvious connection between Ford and Microsoft. The latter's operating system powers Sync. However, even if they never meet in a boardroom to discuss their connections, dozens of other firms, including the above-mentioned names, have intimate links to and impacts on one another.

How Microsoft pulls off its OS impacts Ford. But they're not the only two companies who help create the user experience. The quality of your smartphone, the apps you use and the network you run these things on represent just the beginning of a series of causes and effects that dictate the taste a very good system such as Sync will leave in your - the end user's - mouth.

Practically every party does its job well vis-à-vis Sync.

Technically and cosmetically, Microsoft and Ford have it right. Sync is easy to use. It's intuitive. It's not quite as slick of an experience a Steve Jobs-led Apple ( AAPL) would provide, but it's close enough. After hooking it to Sync, I still have nothing but glowing things to say about my Windows 7.5-powered Nokia Lumia.

My only gripe there: Pandora still does not have an app available for Windows Phone. I can't figure out why. When I streamed music from my phone, I had to use Spotify, Slacker or iHeart Radio because of Pandora's absence. Due to this, I ended up using Sirius XM ( SIRI) more than any other service. All else equal, I would have probably streamed Pandora every time I was in the car.

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