Ford Is Beating GM in In-Car Connectivety Systems

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Back in November, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Ford (NYSE: F) delivered their 5 millionth SYNC-enabled car. SYNC is an in-car system that connects the car with the cloud. Kevin Dallas of Microsoft commented on the partnership, stating:

[W]e’re now focused on how data and connectivity can turn devices into intelligent systems that enable insight-driven action... In the vehicle, this means the ability to connect to more data from more sources and use it to help the driver. Together with Ford, we’re helping them turn the connected vehicle into an intelligent vehicle.

Ford's SYNC OS has been available since 2007, and is rapidly becoming more fine-tuned. Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) is now on-board as well, and Ford drivers will now have in-car integration with the Amazon Cloud Player. Subscribers of Amazon's music service will now be able to seamlessly listen to their music stored in the cloud inside of their Ford automobiles as well. The company is looking to expand its open SYNC platform and attract more developers to create more apps, recently launching an app developer program.

Why is this a big deal?

Because, according to Ford engineering VP Hau Thai-Tang:

The Ford Developer Program marks a dramatic shift in how we will innovate new features and add value to our vehicles throughout the ownership period... Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date and valuable to our customers.

Ford's SYNC platform is open -- meaning anyone can create an app using its software development kit. If approved, Ford works with developers to generate a distribution license so that the app can be brought to market. Ford's connectivity system primarily links smartphones to the car's on-board infotainment system.

What about GM?

Not to be shown up, General Motors (NYSE: GM) is also looking to create its own connectivity system for its line of autos, partnering with Panasonic. GM's system is scheduled to be first offered in late 2013 models, according to the New York Times. GM's system will differ from Ford's in that its apps will primarily run in the car itself, instead of connecting and originating from a smartphone or mobile device. GM's system will also apparently lack voice activation, relying more on touch features. GM's Chief Infotainment Officer, Phil Abram stated that:

There will be a category of apps that will be unique to our cars and very different from what people use today on their smartphones or tablets.... It's not just taking phone apps and making them function in a car, which most car companies do in some form now. Instead, GM may approve applications that stem from vehicle ownership.

GM is straying from Ford's game-plan, deciding to opt for unique apps that distinguish its platform from others.

Conclusion

Both Ford and GM announced on Monday that they will be the first automakers to open up their infotainment app platforms to third-party developers. In my opinion, GM is making a mistake by encouraging developers to create apps for their platform that are strictly auto-based.

Ford's SYNC platform seems superior, in that their mobile apps will be aligned with smartphones as well; providing the capability to blend seamlessly with apps such as Amazon's cloud player. Ford, by directing developers to focus on smartphone apps that integrate seamlessly with their SYNC-enabled AppLink platform, has more flexibility and can cater to consumer's demands more easily. GM will be more confined to the dash of their automobiles, which may limit innovation in a race that they are already playing catch-up to Ford. 


Jharry1 owns shares of Ford and Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Ford, and General Motors Company. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Ford, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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