Ford is on track to become the first automaker to provide hands-free voice control of smartphone apps by integrating the new SYNC AppLink software into the 2011 Ford Fiesta.
The downloadable software upgrade will be featured on the respective model later this year, but will be seen on a majority of SYNC-equipped vehicles next year.
The Android Market and BlackBerry App World are included in the leading growth markets for mobile apps. The new SYNC AppLink enables drivers to have hands-free control of apps on their Android or BlackBerry smartphones through voice commands and vehicle controls, including buttons on the steering wheel.
In a release, Doug VanDagens, director of Ford's Connected Services Organization, said that the growth in smartphone mobile apps has been explosive and that Ford has worked hard to take action at the speed of the consumer electronics market. VanDagens added that SYNC is the only connectivity system available that can extend that functionality into the car.
AppLink will enable drivers to manage the most popular apps through SYNC's voice commands and steering wheel buttons.
And this will aid in making drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Later this year, the first SYNC-enabled apps to be offered include Pandora internet radio, Stitcher "smart radio" and Orangatame's OpenBeak app for Twitter.
There will be more applications on the way. The Android Market and BlackBerry App World will soon offer the updated versions of each app, which incorporate the SYNC application programming interface (API).
Ford also revealed that it is completing beta-testing on the software development kit (SDK) for future SYNC-enabled app development. As soon as beta-testing is complete, the development tools will have a broader release.