Ford launches open mobile app developer program for SYNC AppLink

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LAS VEGAS—At last year’s CES, Ford paired with several companies (including INRIX and NPR) to expand the app offering for its voice-activated app platform, SYNC AppLink. This year, the Detroit-based automaker is ready to expand its app offering even further, with the help of third-party developers.

On Monday Ford announced the launch of the Ford Developer Program, an open developer program that lets third-party software developers interface directly with Ford vehicles and create apps for the SYNC-enabled AppLink platform. SYNC is Ford’s connectivity system for phones and music players (via Bluetooth or USB), while AppLink is Ford’s in-vehicle voice-activated interface, which lets users control smartphone apps without ever picking up their smartphones.

The new Ford Developer Program will let third-party developers create apps that work with Ford’s AppLink interface to (hopefully) bring drivers an enhanced driver experience.

“The car presents an all-new opportunity for developers, especially in the millennial market, and we’re looking forward to seeing what results,” explains Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s Vice President of Engineering in Global Product Development. “Engaging innovators outside of the company is a key part of our strategy to be consumer-driven in all aspects of our business, helping us not only satisfy what’s going on today, but setting us up for innovative solutions to the challenges coming in the future.”

There are currently over three dozen iOS and Android apps that are compatible with AppLink, but these apps were all developed within Ford’s previously closed ecosystem. Now, third-party developers can join the Ford Developer Program by registering at its website downloading the AppLink SDK. The SDK includes code libraries and documentation for the APIs that will allow a mobile app to “talk” to a Ford AppLink-enabled vehicle, and vice-versa. Developers will also have access to technical support from Ford engineers, as well as an online developer community.

Ford says that all third-party apps will be reviewed by Ford engineers to ensure that they both work properly and are appropriate for use in vehicles. Developers can create apps for one of AppLink’s three main categories: News and Information, Music and Entertainment, and Navigation and Location.

In addition to the launch of its developer program, Ford also announced several new partner apps for its SYNC AppLink system. New partner apps include the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Amazon Cloud Player, Aha Radio, Rhapsody, Glympse, and BeCouply.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out complete coverage of CES 2013 from PCWorld and TechHive.

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