Notes From the Auto Show: Smarter, Sexier, More Fun

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integrate their apps with Ford SYNC’s AppLink, which is used in vehicle models across the brand, with an average of 3,000 downloads an hour. “My idea was to create as simple a development program as any other,” he adds. “Developers don’t want friction.”

The key difference between Ford Developer and, say, the Android platform is that when developers download Ford’s software, there’s a license involved. Ellis says it gives developers the right to do what they need to do to create an app, but they aren’t allowed to distribute or commercialize it. “When you think you’re ready to distribute it, you come back to Ford and request a distribution license. You have to pass a safety test, but once that’s done, we issue a full distribution license. Now you’re free to distribute the app to any channel you want—iTunes, Google Play, whatever.”

Of course, there’s a bit of a catch. The safety testing Ford requires is expensive, and most developers would need significant financial backing to complete it. But Ellis says that expense doesn’t mitigate Ford’s desire to put an open call out to all developers to contribute apps to AppLink. “If you’re financially incapable of paying for testing and the idea is really cool, [Ford will] work with you. We’re trying to make sure there’s a swim lane for everybody.”

Ellis joined Ford 11 months ago, and goes out of his way to point out that he comes from the development world—he’s not a car guy. He said what attracted him to the company is the same thing Ford’s data increasingly shows attracts customers to Ford: its technology. “There’s an edginess to Ford and we’re serious about fulfilling that edginess,” he adds. “I don’t get jacked by how fast a car goes, but by how fast my code goes.”

GM is also getting involved in the open innovation game. It just announced a flexible app framework that allows developers to access data from its cars and use it to design apps, rather than designing them for a smartphone or tablet and then uploading them … Next Page »

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