Ford (s f) has announced the marriage of smartphones to its in-vehicle information system, a union that will enable owners of future Ford vehicles to control software on their mobile devices through the Ford Sync hands-free service. The move will not only leverage the more than 2 million Sync systems in use, but will mean mobile programmers could see greater demand for their software.
To wed a smartphone with a car, Ford developed Sync AppLink, a downloadable software upgrade for its in-vehicle computing platform that will first appear in the 2011 Fiesta model. Sync AppLink will extend smartphone application control via voice recognition, allowing consumers to use supported software on their smartphones in hands-free mode through the Sync system. In order to entice developers to implement functionality that supports Sync AppLink, Ford is creating a new mobile application developer network.
Ford, after all, needs developers — and the mobile software they create — more than developers need Ford. The app economy is thriving in the smartphone space — Apple’s App Store generates more than $250 million per month, 70 percent of which goes to developers. So Ford will make it easy for developers to “Sync-enable” an application by offering an API that connects a software title with the hands-free control functionality already offered by the Sync platform. And since the feature is a “value-add,” developers can justifiably charge more for a Sync-compatible application.
The Sync platform is a partnership between Ford and Microsoft (s msft), yet ironically, the first phones to support Sync AppLink won’t be running Microsoft’s smartphone platform. Instead, Ford chose to target Google’s Android (s goog) and Research In Motion’s (s rimm) BlackBerry handsets; applications that can use the Sync system will appear in their respective app stores. Ford will also offer its own Sync apps for these handsets, such as those for traffic or navigation, and will leverage pre-installed smartphone applications — the popular Pandora music-streaming title, for example.
Related content on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):
The App Developers Guide to Working with Ford Sync
To hear more about Ford’s efforts to connect cars and mobile phones, come to Green:Net on April 29 in San Francisco and hear from Edward Pleet, who heads up the company’s product and business development connected services division.
Image courtesy of Ford