The in-vehicle mobile app market and developer community received a boost today, with Ford's announcement that its SYNC AppLink application will be available in 10 of its 2012 vehicles, including the Ford Mustang, Fusion and Fusion Hybrid.
SYNC enables drivers to interact with apps on their smartphones via voice control, making for presumably safer driving conditions. (The SYNC system controls the apps, which run on the phone.)
"We understand more and more drivers are using their devices and their apps while in the car," Doug VanDagens, director of Ford Connected Services Solutions, said in a statement. Ford's SYNC with AppLink, he added, "gives more customers a smarter way to access their apps while driving that keeps their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road."
Ford executives are up to date on the latest smartphone growth estimates, and catering to the mobile market seems a likely way to for a brand with an older image to embrace both younger drivers and a more lucrative future.
Ford is sinking resources into VanDagens' Connected Services group, which is slated to grow by more than fourfold over the next four years, with a "threefold jump for U.S. operations alone," Ford said in its statement.
Ford has made a software developer kit available, with which developers can create new apps or modify existing ones. The SYNC apps can interface with the Apple iOS, Google Android and RIM BlackBerry platforms, and Ford has so far received more than 2,500 submissions from developers.
For the time being, however, pickings are slim, with choices including incarnations of just Pandora, Stitcher — which streams podcasts and radio shows — and OpenBeak, a Twitter client for BlackBerry devices. Ford said it's looking for apps that fall under the categories of personalized entertainment, news, location-based services, scheduling and planning apps (which could notify users of a flight status, for example) and apps that leverage SYNC's ability to combine information, such as vehicle data and location-based information.
“The flexibility of the SYNC platform and software-based solutions such as AppLink,” Ford SYNC Product Manager Julius Marchwicki said in the statement, "give Ford a powerful blend of in-car connectivity technologies that can easily adapt to our customers’ needs and what’s happening in the mobile electronics industry, including the exploding world of smartphone apps."