Ford has just unveiled the latest innovation for its extremely popular SYNC infotainment/communications system: a new SYNC AppLink Software upgrade that will allow owners of Android and Blackberry smartphones hands-free in-car operation of their personal applications on these devices via voice and/or vehicle controls. Due to launch on the 2011 Ford Fiesta and be available for all SYNC-equipped FoMoCo vehicles starting next year, Ford says this downloadable AppLink software enhancement also will provide full-function interoperability with the iPhone and other smartphones.
The first SYNC-enabled apps to become available later this year include Pandora internet radio, Stitcher "smart radio" and Orangatame's OpenBeak app for Twitter. According to Ford, a host of additional apps also are on the way. Updated versions of each app, all incorporating the SYNC application programming interface (API), will be offered to customers through Android Market and BlackBerry App World.
Maximizing SYNC's Market Potential
"The growth in smartphone mobile apps has been explosive, and Ford has worked hard to respond at the speed of the consumer electronics market," said Doug VanDagens, director of the firm's Connected Services Organization. Experts are predicting that mobile app development will becomes a $4 billion industry by 2012 and that mobile devices will surpass home computers as the primary source of Internet access by mid-decade. "SYNC is the only connectivity system available that can extend that functionality into the car," said VanDagens. "AppLink will allow drivers to control some of the most popular apps through SYNC's voice commands and steering wheel buttons, helping drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road."
Smartphone users will be able to download these new SYNC-enabled mobile apps using existing app store interfaces. Ford sees that aspect of its new AppLink software as being particularly attractive, given that it minimizes both cost and complexity by eliminating the need to add additional hardware to the vehicle itself. On a related front, the automaker also will create a new "Mobile Application Developer Network" (www.syncmyride.com/developer) that will provide a venue through which independent application developers can partner with the automaker on the creation of future SYNC-enabled apps.