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Ford (s f) today said it will add Wi-Fi to its SYNC offering, effectively turning some of its cars into mobile hotspots. Similar to Verizon’s MiFi, the solution allows customers to use their own USB mobile broadband modems to connect to the web,
providing access for anyone in the vehicle with WiFi-enabled devices. The solution will be standard on select SYNC-equipped vehicles and will require no additional hardware or subscriptions beyond users’ mobile broadband services.
The car is kind of the last frontier for Wi-Fi, which has become commonplace in the home, the workplace and in countless public areas. And by providing 3G connectivity to the car, automakers like Ford will be able to generate revenue from carriers — which could be crucial at a time when car manufacturers are struggling mightily.
But the move could also be another step toward bringing the app store model into our cars (GigaOM Pro, sub required). BMW, Nokia and Parrot — among others — are working on auto app initiatives, and Ford has said it will open its SYNC API to developers next year. So while in-car Wi-Fi may be a way for automakers to pry a few dollars out of mobile network operators over the next few years, it also could help pave the way for car manufacturers to become retailers of in-car applications.
Image courtesy Flickr user davidking.