Ford’s Sync connectivity system already offers drivers the ability to control their phones with voice-commands, but a new upgrade — dubbed AppLink — will allow them to integrate various smartphone applications into the vehicle’s controls.
“The growth in smartphone mobile apps has been explosive, “ Doug VanDagens, director of Ford’s Connected Services Organization, said in a release. “Ford has worked hard to respond to the speed of the consumer electronics market.”
Although previous reports suggested Sync itself would eventually support standalone applications, AppLink is instead designed to interface with applications that are already installed on the driver’s smartphone. The vehicle’s existing controls — both physical and voice-activated — will subsequently control the applications.
This may open up a world of digital possibilities, but early adopters may find AppLink’s reach somewhat limited. Initially, the system will be compatible only with Blackberry and Android devices, while iPhone support will eventually be rolled out in the months to come. Initial application choices are also somewhat limited. Openbeak allows users to remotely update Twitter feeds, while Stitcher and Pandora allow drivers to stream audio or music into the car’s sound system.
We’d expect that list of software choices to grow considerably in the next few months, as Ford will provide developers with a software development kit (SDK). Ford will take a relatively hands-off approach to distributing AppLink-compatible software — developers will continue to offer and sell such software through existing channels, like Blackberry’s AppWorld or Android’s Market.
AppLink will first appear on 2011 Fiestas equipped with Sync, but will eventually be installed on other Sync-equipped Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles. Those who already own a vehicle with Sync aren’t left in the cold, either — AppLink will be offered as a downloadable upgrade.