According to Bloomberg News, Ford has dropped Microsoft as its Sync software provider, and has instead switched to BlackBerry’s OS after the second-gen, MyFord Touch suffered from technical problems and consistent bugs. These issues were so persistent that Ford has continued to build on the first-gen system, and has left the second-gen system entirely. The QNX BlackBerry system will, ideally, provide engineers with a whole new type of mobile platform that the present systems lack, including support for touch screen, HTML5, and other interface enhancements. QNX is already in use with Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Acura, Porsche, Saab, and Hyundai, so for Ford to join on speaks more to a broad industry standard than anything else. And for BlackBerry, it represents a big bright spot in a new year of restructuring for the company.
Ford is the leader in the connected car front with a robust infotainment system called the Ford Sync program. Their mobile integration is the cornerstone of the platform with its very own app ecosystem engineered for the car. Leveraging voice controls, Ford AppLink currently has thirteen apps available in their portfolio but an announcement at CES signals huge growth in that space.
In an announcement this afternoon, Ford will be launching their Open Developer Program that will provide third party developers all the APIs and tools they need to begin creating apps for Ford’s platform in a similar manner to Android or iOS for mobile. Specifically, Ford is looking for news, navigation, productivity tools, and more while video and text heavy apps along with gaming will be prohibited (you do still need to drive). USA Today, AHA Radio and Rhapsody are some major players jumping onboard but expect some more niche apps to follow suit.
The connected car is one of the most promising frontiers for advertisers as robust media experiences travel with us in the car. There is clearly a demand for consumers as well with 65% of Ford customers saying AppLink was an important factor in their purchase. AppLink has rolled out to 1 million US cars in 2012 with another million planned for 2013 and an estimated 14 million in 2015.