Ford Joins GM in Fulfilling Drivers’ Data-Consumption Needs

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Ford Explorer Reuters
Ford Explorer

With mobile being the current preoccupation of engineers, technology companies, and consumers, it seems sensible that cars are the next frontier. After all, what could be more mobile than an automobile with wireless internet connectivity?

America’s largest car manufacturers have realized the benefits that web capabilities will give their vehicles; not only will their cars be smarter — with the Internet connection providing drivers in-car diagnostics for mechanical problems, maintenance checks, and more-accurate traffic data at the touch of a finger — but passengers will also have access to a wider range of entertainment options.

However, Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) are pursuing slightly different routes to Internet connectivity.

On Monday, GM announced that it would be partnering with AT&T (NYSE:T) to fulfill drivers’ data-consumption needs on the road, a service that will be available in the manufacturer’s 2015 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac automobiles with an annual charge of $299.

AT&T, which upset Verizon (NYSE:VZ) for the GM contract, has called the connected car a “billion dollar business” in terms of revenue, according to Forbes. Glenn Lurie, emerging devices president at AT&T, told the publication that “a few years ago we were the first to carry the iPhone and we didn’t know we were going to be here today,” indicating that the company believes that its deal with the car manufacturer has significance for AT&T’s future as a top wireless carrier similar to its partnership with Apple.

For its part, Ford has chosen a route to connectivity more focused on applications. Ford Sync consists of a range of applications that allow drivers to make hands-free telephone calls, control music, and perform other functions with the use of voice commands, powered by an operating system designed by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). As Gigamon reported on Monday, Ford announced at the Mobile World Congress that the subscription music service Spotify will by the latest addition to the Sync AppLink platform that already boasts Pandora (NYSE:P) and Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Cloud Player.

Ford has been eager to bring mobile features into its vehicles as soon as possible, and this desire will become even more pressing given GM’s recent announcement. “We’re very developer-oriented,” Douglas VanDagens, the director of Ford’s Connected Services division, told Forbes. “The reason people are working with us is we’ve made it easy for them to develop on our platform.”

But he is not worried about the competition from GM. VanDagens maintained that GM’s wireless connectivity strategy was flawed. The software and the hardware technology would move slowly, he argued, beholden to the drawn-out automotive life cycle. In comparison, Ford’s Sync applications will be the most up to date because they operate in conjunction with users’ mobile phones.

However, Lurie denied that slow update cycles and development timelines will be a problem; because the car is constantly connected, it will be updated as often as needed.

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