Ford has announced that it plans to open its SYNC platform to third party app developers. Though no timeline is given for implementation, Ford has indicated that it will announce future SYNC features during the CES show in January 2010.
Though the SYNC system can be upgraded with new features or apps, only features developed by Ford are available for downloading on the syncmyride website.
Prasad Venkatesh, Vehicle Design & Infotainment at Ford is quoted in the article: "The way we're developing the toolkit, you could sit in the comfort of your home and plan a roadtrip," he says. Using a smartphone or computer, you'd then add points of interest or other plans. "At the click of a button, the cloud would make all that available to you in the car, and it would broadcast it to your social networking groups."
The quandary OEMs face is their inability to control the downloadable application marketplace. However, there is an opportunity for OEMs to leverage that the app space by testing and approving applications before release and in the case of Ford, working with partners to develop specific applications specifically for their vehicles.
An in-depth look at downloadable telematics apps can be found in the following Strategy Analytics report: Telematics as a Downloadable App. Arrives
Smartphone apps are popular downloads but are not necessarily a source of revenue. This has implications for automotive telematics app opportunities.
Prasad stated that “Ford doesn't know whether they will pursue an app store model ala Apple, and no firm plans have been made about monetization. The potential is there, however; he says he is encouraging the students at UM to pursue their apps with an entrepreneurial mindset.”
It is important for app store owners to provide the right balance between free content as an enticement for consumers to buy from the stores, and paid-for content to realize revenue.
A simplified app purchasing process, such as that perfected by the Apple App Store, is critical to the launch and overall success of an app store. According to Strategy Analytics’ Wireless Media Labs smartphone survey research, over two-thirds of iPhone and over half of BlackBerry respondents in the US have installed all or the majority of the applications on their phone for free.