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Microsoft's Steve Ballmer is introduced to his new car by Ford's Alan Mulally (Microsoft file photo)

A new partnership announced between Ford and Toyota this morning is attracting lots of attention, primarily focused on the companies’ plans to collaborate on a new hybrid-electric system for light trucks and SUVs. But also notable is the news that they plan to “collaborate on development of next-generation standards for in-car telematics and Internet-based services.”

That’s a reference to the information, communication and entertainment services that are becoming common in new cars — better known as infotainment systems.

Both companies are partners of Microsoft. The Redmond company provides the underlying technology for Ford’s Sync system and announced plans in April to collaborate with Toyota on new technology for its cars, based on Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing platform.

In their news release, Ford and Toyota say they will “collaborate on standards and technologies needed to enable a safer, more secure and more convenient in-car experience for next-generation telematics systems.” They note that the collaboration “relates only to standards and technologies, and each company will continue to separately develop their own in-vehicle products and features.”

Still, the effort to develop common standards could be a boost to Microsoft, possibly making it easier to translate some of the fundamental work it’s doing on its automotive platform to the projects it’s pursuing with both companies.

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