Why Ford App Developer Program Is Breaking New Ground

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2013-11-17 Print this article Print

Benefits for registrants to the program include access to the AppLink SDK and developer guides; developer community forums, blogs and news; development and testing support; global distribution opportunities; and marketing capabilities, including the worldwide Ford App Catalog.

Ford contributes its open-source code to—but is not a member of—the Genivi Alliance, a nonprofit industry group committed to driving the broad adoption of an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) open-source development platform.

IVI is a rapidly growing field that covers entertainment and information features and functionality available in automobiles. IVI covers many types of vehicle infotainment applications, including music, news and multimedia, navigation and location services, telephony, Internet services and more.

Processes Getting Increasingly Complex

Automobile manufacturers and their suppliers must develop, test, deploy and support IVI products and services across multiple automobile models and generations. This process is increasingly complex and expensive as the rate of innovation and number of applications rapidly expands. Genivi is in the process of developing a reusable, open-source IVI platform.

Genivi's objective is to build an active open-source IVI community by:

—delivering a reusable, open-source platform consisting of Linux-based core services, middleware, and open application layer interfaces;

—engaging developers to deliver compliant applications; and

—sponsoring technical, marketing and compliance programs.

Ford launched voice-controlled Sync in 2007, and "imitation followed; a lot of people started doing the voice thing," Ellis said. "In 2010, we introduced AppLink at CES, and in 2011 at CES, we introduced Pandora [an on-demand music-streaming service provider] as the first AppLink-enabled app. The app is integrated into the vehicle via a suite of APIs that we publish to expose vehicle buttons outwards, such as radio dial, radio buttons, etc."

Why Ford Started a Dev Community

Ford came to realize that it almost had a moral imperative to put together a development community when it started calling itself a software company about five years ago, Ellis said.

"We needed to fix that fragmentation. We turned around and open-sourced AppLink, and announced it April 19 at Mobile World Congress," Ellis said. "IVI is where the code is being built, the mobile proxy and the head unit. The Ford program is where we take that and make it real for Ford."

For example, if you think back to early Android days, "Samsung had a developer program, Motorola had a developer program—they were working on getting Android onto their devices," Ellis said.

"That's similar to here: We're working on getting that software onto our cars with your devices. We want it to be that you take your phone to Ford, and it works. Take it to GM, and it works. BWM, and it works. We want it to work everywhere, but our motto to developers is we want Ford to be first."

In summary, the Ford Developer Program enables software programmers to work on anything they like, and make it able to run anywhere—but they need to make it for Ford first, Ellis said.

"If you're a developer and you want to make cool things, this is the way to do it," Ellis said.


Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz


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