Spotify has made its first connected car appearance. At Mobile World Congress, Ford and Spotify announced that the subscription music service will soon be available over the Sync AppLink platform and integrated with the Sync’s voice command system in Ford vehicles in the U.S., Europe and Australia.
According to Spotify Global Head of Hardware Partnerships Pascal de Mul, the updated iPhone (No word on Android support yet) will soon be able to pair with the dashboard AppLink system, streaming music through the car’s entertainment systems. Users will be able to play their songs, playlists and radio stations and even be able to create new radio stations on the fly with simple voice commands, he said.
Ford has been loading up on music streaming apps in AppLink, making it a key initial focus of its connected car strategy. Its library of supported services includes Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player, MOG Music, Slacker, and Rhapsody as well as multiple radio station’s digital apps.
Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas said digital music streaming figures right into Sync’s sweet spot. Ford doesn’t have to explain the utility of the services to the driving public since music is already the most popular form of entertainment in the car. The integration of a streaming service into Sync is relatively simple. And since the content is audio only and can be manipulated through Sync commands, the apps all easily meet Ford’s requirements that no connected car app distract a driver from the road, he said.
At the show Ford also revealed it is adding AppLink connectivity to its EcoSport crossover SUV (pictured at top) just in time for its European debut. For also brought several apps Europe that were previously available in U.S. cars: Kaliki, Glympse and Aha Radio.
We got a chance to sit down with Mascarenas for a few minutes at MWC to get a quick update on Ford’s new open development platform, originally unveiled at CES. Though the program is barely more than a month old, 2500 developers have already signed up and downloaded the SDK. Many of those devs have already completed apps and have submitted them to Ford, and a few those apps actually received final approval, Mascarenas said. Mascarenas said Ford plans to announced those apps in the coming weeks.
Spotfiy doesn’t count since it began working with Ford before the development program was launched, Mascarenas said, but the program has opened up Sync to a lot of smaller developers who wouldn’t usually get Ford’s direct attention. Ford is now faced with a distribution and discovery issue. “If you go into an app store, there’s no easy way to find the apps that AppLink-enabled, Mascarenas said.
When the number of Sync apps was small, Ford could promote them individually. But there are now 63 AppLink-optimized apps, and that number will grow significantly as the apps start emerging from the developer program. Ford is working on ways to catalog them. Whether that means creating its own app store or portal Android or working with Apple and Google to spotlight connected car software, Mascarenas didn’t say. Ford could also go with the approach, GM appears to be adopting and create a catalog in the dashboard itself.
Correction: An early version of this post stated that Spotify’s Sync integration capabilities would be available on both Android and iOS devices. However the initial launch will support only the iPhone.