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CES 2013: Ford opens Sync AppLink to competitors

The goal is to create a single ecosystem for in-car applications and dominate the infotainment space.

By Douglas Newcomb Jan 8, 2013 10:51AM

Ford Sync AppLink. Photo by Ford.At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, automakers act like tech companies for the week, unveiling new software that will change how we interact with our cars.


Ford had a big announcement late Monday: It's opening its Sync AppLink platform to application developers at no cost by creating the Ford Developer Program.


With the move, Ford becomes the first automaker in the world to create an open developer platform allowing anyone -- from a small garage outfit to competing automakers -- to program the AppLink interface and create apps and customized driving experiences for customers.


The advantage for consumers is obvious: Instead of limiting AppLink innovations to Ford engineers, the company can now curate and license the best innovations made by outside developers, while other automakers and third-party suppliers can create their own apps based on the software. Developers benefit by working with one platform and software development kit instead of needing to learn and implement multiple platforms.


Unlike the billions of smartphones on the market, creating specific apps for cars isn’t as attractive to developers since it’s a relatively small market, Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of engineering for Ford Global Product Development, told MSN Autos (Note: MSN Autos is owned by Microsoft, which partners with Ford to create Sync). “By offering our Sync AppLink API to other car companies, we can create a much larger ecosystem for the car so that developers can create apps for a single automotive platform," he said.


But Ford's intentions aren’t solely altruistic.

According to Wired, a strategic element is at play here. The automaker’s goal is to dominate the emerging infotainment space by taking advantage of the success of Sync, much as Google does with Android in the smartphone sector. With this expanded footprint, Ford can then carve out a coveted position for AppLink as the de facto industry standard.

Developers have already shown plenty of interest, with more than 4,000 registered for access to the Ford Developer Program. The company has also partnered with Michigan-based app developer JacAPPS to provide assistance to outside developers who may have a hot idea but don’t have the staff or technical ability to execute it.

It’s also worth noting that Ford’s ambitions for AppLink are global. When the platform launches later this year in Europe and Asia, a system will already be in place to quickly add more apps relevant to those markets, which can be created by local developers.


The only obstacle to AppLink’s potential domination is the fact that other automakers have already invested heaps of time and money developing their own proprietary platforms. Wired reports that just like major tech companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, automakers “want to control and maintain their own ecosystems.”

 

Speaking anonymously, a General Motors executive told Wired that adopting AppLink would be risky because of the resulting loss of control. “Will we get the latest updates or will we have to wait until Ford is willing to share?” he asked.


Only time and Ford President Alan Mulally know for sure.

 

[Source: Wired Autopia]
11Comments
Jan 9, 2013 12:16PM
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Means more apps for Ford consumers!  A very good idea.
Jan 10, 2013 8:24AM
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"Maybe now the Ford S(t)YNC system will get some good expert reviews."

 

Ford Sync has actually already gotten some good reviews. I do believe you're thinking of the MyFord Touch system that has been getting the negative reviews from consumer reports. Sync is independant from MyFord Touch.

Jan 9, 2013 11:02AM
Jan 9, 2013 12:17PM
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Great, now the schmucks who write fart apps will have a new platform to conquer.
Jan 9, 2013 5:25PM
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Why spend the money to make a poor system good when someone else can do it for you for free?

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