Ford releases SDK to pair smartphone apps with SYNC voice command

American automobile company Ford today announced it is now releasing its software development kit to developers looking to make their smartphone apps compatible with Ford SYNC's voice command system.

SYNC debuted in the 2008 Ford Focus, and after it proved to be much more than a sales gimmick, discussion that cars could be the next big platform for apps began to arise.

But the big question was: should they be native to the car, or extensions of the apps on the mobile devices we already carry? Ford has chosen to go with the latter.

"More and more drivers will find a way to use their devices and their apps while in the car," said Derrick Kuzak, Group Vice President, Global Product Development at CTIA on Friday. "They can do it unsafely, or they can do it through safer voice-activated solutions such as Ford SYNC -- keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel."  

Since Ford launched its developer website, the company says it has received more than 1,000 submissions from developers looking either to modify their existing apps, or create all-new ones that interface with Ford SYNC's voice commands through AppLink.

AppLink will debut in the 2011 Fiesta and be compatible with Android and BlackBerry smartphones. iPhone compatibility is expected to come to the system in mid-2011.

Automatic voice command compatibility looks to be an impressive feature for an application to have, especially since Ford announced it had increased the lexicon of SYNC's voice command system to more than 10,000 words, and simplified its architecture last July.

But hands-free controls are meant to give drivers fewer distractions, so Ford isn't looking to have every fart app enabled with voice commands.

"Our goal is not to have thousands of apps available for the car," said Kuzak in his CTIA keynote, "because there are strict limitations on what should be allowed while driving."

Ford is still considering what apps are appropriate for in-car use, but has named Pandora Internet radio, Stitcher podcatcher, and OpenBeak Twitter client as the first apps to be compatible with AppLink. Beyond that, Ford mentioned location-based services, navigation services, vehicle telemetry, banking and financial apps, and scheduling and travel-planning apps all as acceptable categories.

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