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Rhapsody Music Service Now in 1 Million Ford Autos

USA- New York | Jan 7 2013 | (22:43:18 - EDT)

Ford Motor Co. (F) will offer Rhapsody International Inc.’s Internet music service in more than 1 million Ford and Lincoln vehicles, the online company’s first tie-in with an automaker.

Ford and Rhapsody plan to introduce the service at 4 p.m. today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, according to an e-mailed statement. Listeners with Ford’s Sync-enabled cars and trucks can use voice commands and buttons on the steering wheel to control functions on their smartphones.

With U.S. consumers listening to music most often behind the wheel, cars are a logical battleground for Web music services, including Pandora Media Inc. (P) Seattle-based Rhapsody said 40 percent of subscribers use the service while driving. Voice commands and steering wheel buttons offer a safer way to run the service on Bluetooth-linked smartphones.

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“Our customers see the limitations of terrestrial radio and Sirius XM satellite radio,” Jon Irwin, president of Rhapsody, said in an interview. “They want full access to their music in the car.”

Rhapsody is talking with other automakers about integrating the service, Irwin said, without being more specific. Pandora, based in Oakland, California, said in December its service is available in 75 vehicle models.

Ford Sync is available on the 2013 Fiesta, Mustang, Expedition, Fusion, F-150, Super Duty, Focus, E-Series and C- MAX, the company said in the statement. Ford has already integrated Pandora, Slacker Media Inc.’s web radio and Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCO)’s iHeartRadio.

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“We want to give customers as many options as we can,” Elizabeth Halash, AppLink product development engineer for Ford, said in an interview. “If they’re already a Rhapsody user, they know the service and use it all the time, we want to allow that in the car as well and to use it hands-free.”

Closely held Rhapsody also plans to announce today its service is becoming available on Roku Inc.’s set-top boxes, Irwin said. In recent months, the company released new apps for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad, devices running Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android software and for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Xbox video-game console.

Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, rose 0.8 percent to $13.57 on Jan. 4 in New York. The stock climbed 20 percent in 2012, exceeding the 13 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, which includes Ford.

Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s MTV, Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Universal Music, Sony Corp. (6758) and Best Buy Co. (BBY) own stakes in Rhapsody, Irwin said.

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