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Ford drives apps for navigation, social, fun

Launches Ford Developer Program to bolster in-vehicle app platform

LAS VEGAS - Ford Motor Co. is looking to integrate drivers' favorite apps into their cars, giving them someone to read them the morning newspaper, along with an app to find them the site of their next great date.

Ford showed off a Fusion SE during a press conference at the International CES show on Monday afternoon in Las Vegas. Ford is reaching out to developers to bring users' apps seamlessly into the car. Photo: Sharon Gaudin

The auto maker is now looking to make their cars much more social, letting friends and family know exactly where you are on everything from big road trips to a drive to the beach.

To help them do this, the company launched the Ford Developer Program. Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of engineering for Ford, told an audience at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that the open developer program should help third-party programmers create apps for Ford's Sync AppLink, an auto feature that lets users run their smartphone apps through the vehicle.

Ford is hoping the program, which is live now, will help developers create new apps, all voice-recognized, that will fit in with their Sync platform.

"It really is so exciting to see the next phase of the evolution of the driving experience opening up before our eyes," said Paul Mascarenas, chief technology officer of Ford, during a presentation at CES on Monday afternoon. "This marks a strategic shift in how we innovate for the future. Collaboration is more important as we face an ever-changing and diverse world. Ford wants to be developer-focused."

At this point, there already are a few dozen apps, like Pandora, NPR and MLB.com, that work with Ford's Sync platform. Ford simply is trying to multiply its app ecosystem.

One new face in the app field is BeCouply.

Available for the iPhone on Tuesday and coming soon to a Ford near you, the new app is designed to help couples find interesting dates near them. Want to go horseback riding? Or maybe try a cooking class? Soon the BeCouply app in your car will tell you where you can go to do these things and then will give you turn-by-turn directions to get you there.

And USA Today also has an app for Ford's Sync platform. This app will have a real human reading everything from political news to health and finance stories to drivers on their trips to work.

"We're finally entering the final frontier where we are not already America's news brand -- the car," said David Payne, chief digital officer for the Gannett Co. "Now for the first time, consumers can safely get the latest news, finance and sports in a car, a Ford. This is the first consumer-friendly news app for the car."

Ford also is working with the Kaliki app, which offers human-read read content from newspapers and magazines, like OK!, TV Guide, Shape and Men's Fitness.

If someone wants their friends and family to know where they are while they're driving around town or across the country, Ford is working with the Glympse app.

Glympse is designed to enable drivers to share their location via email, Facebook or Twitter. The driver -- or possibly a young driver's parents -- tell the app who to give the information to and for how long.

Want more on CES? See our Complete coverage of CES 2013.

Follow our staffers live from CES in Las Vegas through Jan. 11 on Twitter @Computerworld/CES or via our live blog from CES. Or, subscribe to our CES RSS feed.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about personal technology in Computerworld's Personal Technology Topic Center.


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