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Ford Sync – “Play Station Pandora”

Here's one I missed before the holidays, and maybe you did, too.

It's about Ford's Sync system, the interface built into more than a million Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys which allows drivers to harness the power of their mobile devices (iPhones, Blackberrys, etc.) and control them handsfree.

Now, thanks to Sync's open API and the bottomless appetite for making and consuming apps, there will be a "mobile app for that," where "that" means almost everything.

And some of the first such apps will be designed to provide an alternative to radio.

You've got about 100 terrestrial radio stations…. Then you have approximately 250 satellite radio stations, which are better than regular radio but cost money and still offer relatively limited choices. Now, when it comes to internet radio, your choices are essentially limitless. Trouble is, your car doesn't get the internet. And even if your car is in fact a WiFi hotspot, how do you get the internet into your radio, let alone (safely) switch stations? Meet SyncCast, an app that let's you play whatever station you want via your phone. You can even use familiar Sync commands, such as "Play station Pandora."

What this app will do is essentially reduce the difficulty of using a mobile device to listen to radio alternatives.

Even if you plug an iPhone into an audio jack to tune in streaming radio in a regular car, you still have the hassle of "changing the station."  SyncCast reduces that hassle.  And anything that reduces the "pain" of radio alternatives will promote the use of those alternatives vis a vis the effortless and ubiquitous radio.

Naturally, since radio is by nature not distracting to the driver, I would expect radio-like apps to be the first off the proverbial assembly line for Sync (compared to other apps with critical visual elements and distraction potential).

In general we underestimate the burdens of using Internet Radio in the car, just as we underestimate the fact that these burdens will diminish – maybe suddenly – over time.

Internet Radio is certainly coming to more cars near you.

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