Microsoft Corporation announced a joint venture with Ford Motor Company that will link MSN CarPoint with Ford's manufacturing and supply systems, giving users a way to custom-order vehicles over the Internet. Ford is the first investor in the service, though other carmakers are expected to sign up as well.

"It has to do with establishing the capability for consumers to do more in the purchase process than they're currently able to do. It's more to do with the vehicle configuration," said Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes.

"CarPoint is going to change the way cars are bought and sold with technology that brings together manufacturers and dealers to deliver the services consumers want," said Microsoft president Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer says that the goal of the venture is to eventually make it a publicly held company separate from Microsoft.

"We will float this thing at some point," said Ballmer said. "For this venture to be successful in the marketplace, it would need access to capital.