Automaker aims to become industry standard, offers up its specification royalty-free

Ford Motor Comp. (F) has received harsh criticism from J.D Power and Associates and Consumer Reports regarding its graphically overhauled MyFord Touch infotainment system.  But despite the criticism, Ford appears to remain confident that its vehicles need more infotainment features, not less.

I. Ford Aims to Positions Itself as the "Apple" of the Auto World

The automaker continued that push on Monday afternoon, showing off a new program for developers at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ford has worked hard to install itself as a regular fixture at a show dominated by electronics giants.  The automaker first came to CES back in 2009, when it showed off the SYNC infotainment system, then followed up in 2010 with MyFord Touch, and then in 2011 with the Ford Focus Electric.  This year Ford's VP of Engineering Hau Tai-Tang announced the "first open developer program in the auto industry's history".

The car maker began its efforts with AppLink last year -- a project to allow app-makers to use the vehicle's built in voice support to control their apps and the Bluetooth link to stream sound from apps as well.

Now mature, Ford is putting the finishing touches on the program, announcing a new developer website --  Ford says that it has shipped 1 million vehicles with AppLink support and Ford says it should sell over a million more this year.  It predicts that by 2015 there will be an install base of 14 million vehicles with AppLink on the roads.  Ford plans to debut the technology in Europe and Asia later this year.

Ford Developer Program
Ford announced the auto industry's "first open developer platform".

While some will surely disagree, Ford sees letting drivers use apps on the road as a safety feature.  It cites internal research, which showed that 75 percent of users want to connect their devices to their car, and that users are twice as likely to use their touchscreen by driving if the (in-car) technology doesn't meet their needs.

Ford emphasized that it will instantly deny any app with video content or rich imagery, with extensive text or reading of text, or apps that involve playing games.

II. A Small Selection of Indie, Big-Time Developers Already Onboard

The company claims that it's relatively easy to add code to your smartphone apps using Ford's AppLink API.  It gives stories like that of the creators of BeCouply, who finished an early build of their app in a single night.  The app helps couples plan their dates, by offering voice-controlled suggestions of activities and nearby options in those categories.

BeCouply offers suggestions for dates.

But Ford also has paired with jacApps to offer an option to interested parties who aren't as experienced on the development front.  jacApps will build you an AppLink app for a fee.  And another company, Cetecom, is Ford's official testing partner, which it refers interested parties to.

For do-it-yourself developers who don't own a vehicle with SYNC, Ford is offering a special text box, which it nicknames "SYNC in a box".  The box-shaped test console features the features of a standard SYNC-equipped center-stack.

It's Ford SYNC in a box!

Among the other apps announced include:
  • Roximity - An app to find nearby deals
  • WSJ Live - Radio programming from News Corp. (NWS)
  • USA Today - News app with stories read by "real people"
  • aha Radio - Aggregates internet radio channels, podcasts, and other content
  • Rhapsody - Popular music subscription service with 16 million songs
  • Kaliki - Reads audio-versions of articles in popular magazines and newspapers, including The Detroit Free Press, Men's Health, Shape, and TV Guide.
  • Sina -- social networking and media content (for the CHinese market)
  • Glympse -- track your location and send email, SMS, Facebook, or Twitter messages to family members with your location
  • Amazon CloudPlayer -- Streaming music from, Inc.'s (AMZN) popular online storage service
Ford SYNC AppLink Apps
Ford is offering a number of launch apps with the help of its developer partners.

Amazon VP of Digital Music, Steve Boom agrees with Ford that AppLink is a safety feature of sorts.  

He remarks, "At Amazon we're music lovers and music lovers tend to have lots of music in their music collections... when you're speeding down the freeway, rifling through your glovebox looking for your latest CD from Mumford and Sons is probably not the greatest idea... fumbling for your phone only to realize you didn't sync your songs to it ... also not such a good idea. Amazon cloud customers will be able to play their entire music libraries while driving in the car.  [App Link is] a convenient, and more importantly safer, way to play your music."

Ford says it is offering the technology free of licensing or royalties.  It says that contributing the software to the industry is a "service to developers".  Ford reports that it is "working with several industry groups to become the standard protocol for smartphone communications within the car."

[All Images © Jason Mick and DailyTech LLC]

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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