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RAIN 12/18: Ford in-car Internet will tune in Internet radio via apps, like a smartphone

Posted on: 12/18/2009


Ford is developing its in-car Sync technology to incorporate third-party “apps” — much like on an iPhone — including streaming radio. The Sync system, developed by Ford and Microsoft, features Internet connectivity, GPS and music playback all of which can be controlled through voice commands. Using new software called SyncLink, software developers could create applications for Sync much in the same way they create apps for iPhones and other smartphone devices.

Naturally, Internet radio apps could take advantage of Sync’s web connection and bring services like Pandora and Slacker to car dashboards. Pandora recently expressed interest in “deeper integration with car radios and controls,” as CTO Tom Conrad revealed to SanFran Music Tech Summit attendees (RAIN coverage here). It’s highly likely that the companies that create “tuner” apps for mobile devices — like vTuner, allRadio or Wunder Radio — will create tuner apps to access thousands of webcasts via Ford Sync dashboards. Other apps could use Sync’s GPS connection to give directions, find nearby locations or deliver real-time traffic updates.

Ford will unveil a list of “trusted partners” of applications that have been adapted for Sync at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 7, The Wall Street Journal reports (here), along with new Sync features integrating navigation and social networks.


Though “online music services have had a bad few weeks,” as TechCrunch points out (Spotify’s U.S. launch has been delayed while two services, Imeem and Lala, were both sold at disappointingly low prices), Pandora’s successes perhaps show the potential for online music. But there are challenges. A recent study by Forrester found that 18% of adults online listen to streaming music on a regular basis, “a percentage that remained fairly constant over the past few years,” as MediaPost reports (here).

Additionally, though webcasters’ mobile penetration via smartphones has gained much attention, Forrester found that only 3% of U.S. consumers have downloaded a music app for their phone. But then there’s Pandora, with 40 million users and 1 million daily listeners tuning in from mobile devices (RAIN coverage here). Indeed, “amongst 18-24 year-olds, Pandora has twice as many daily visitors as Hulu and ESPN, according to comScore,” writes TechCrunch (here). While on-demand and subscription-based services are struggling at the moment, Pandora is enjoying much success — perhaps an indication of the stability and potential for Internet radio’s business model.


Soundtrckr, a mobile application for the iPhone as well as Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile devices can create custom Internet radio streams based on users’ music libraries or specific artists. These streams can be shared with a users’ “friends” on Soundtrckr, so other people can listen to your custom station.

But the noteworthy feature of the app is geo-tagging — assigning a real-world location to a song. The app alerts you to songs that have been assigned to your location and lets you see where other users have listened to their music. Wired’s Eliot Van Buskirk writes that this sharing of stations and location data makes what was previously an isolated experience very social: “Suddenly, even though I was listening alone, I didn’t feel quite so alone.”

Beyond the social aspect, the geo-tagging feature “could also give marketers a valuable way to track the genesis of a hit and popularity of genres by neighborhood and let them know where to put advertisements and flyers for an upcoming show.” Augmented reality could also be added in the future, Van Buskirk suggests. You can read his full review of Soundtrck on Wired here.

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