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Internet radio, AppLink, and the open road

Ever since radio lost its prominence to television as America’s number one form of entertainment, it has been in the background of American life. The primary place where many people listen to radio has been in their cars on the open road. The audience for traditional AM/FM forms of radio is shrinking, but the market for personalized Internet radio services such as Pandora radio continues to grow. Drivers have sought to bring Internet radio with them on the road since mobile smartphones such as the iPhone, Blackberry or Android phones started offering mobile Internet radio applications.

The problem is how to do this. Launching the radio apps on phones and then connecting them to a car stereo’s auxiliary port has so far been the only way to take Internet radio to its fullest potential. But this creates further distractions for the driver and can contribute to driver error and traffic accidents. This week the Ford Motor Company announced their solution to this dilemma.

A new upgrade to its SYNC systems named AppLink will natively and wirelessly use radio applications such as Pandora or Stitcher radio from smartphones, allowing the driver to use these applications hands free. After Ford rolls out the new software update later this year, all SYNC enabled vehicles will be able to use AppLink. The system works by syncing smartphones to Ford’s SYNC systems and then the user navigates Pandora or Stitcher using voice commands.

Imagine driving down California’s beautiful coastal highway one and saying to your car “change station to the Beach Boys.” On the stressful commute home from work, command your car to play relaxing reggae, classical music or any other commercial free genre or artist station Pandora has to offer. Compared to the now ancient auxiliary port, this is a huge step forward in bringing Internet radio on the road. The Stitcher radio app is an Internet radio service that allows users to listen to talk and news radio from a plethora of sources such as N.P.R. Fox News, Wall Street Journal, and many other radio and podcast stations. As an N.P.R. addict, I would love the ability to listen to my favorite shows whenever I want simply by telling my car “Play all things considered.”

These are just the first two radio applications that Ford is releasing though AppLink. There is also another application available at launch called OpenBeak that will read Twitter updates out loud. But who really cares about Twitter while driving (sorry Twitter addicts). The software update is expected to rollout mid summer, first on Ford’s new Economy car the Fiesta and later as an upgrade for all other SYNC equipped vehicles. At launch AppLink will only work with Google Android and Blackberry smartphones, but Ford promises iPhone support later this year.

As more and more car companies are able to safely bring Internet radio into the automobile market, could this be another nail for AM/FM’s coffin? Only time will tell.

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4 Responses to Internet radio, AppLink, and the open road

  1. Jennifer Waits April 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    For those of us who love non-commercial radio, especially college radio, this also brings with it the opportunity to tune in to our favorite stations (even if they are out of range of our car radio) through their Internet feeds. This would be great for those of us living in cities like San Francisco where radio reception can be really tricky because of all of the hills.

    So, I’d like to think that this technology can actually help to expand the reach of those excellent terrestrial stations who deserve to survive.

  2. Kye Weasner April 25, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    That is an excellent idea. I have always thought of internet radio sapping listeners away from local stations but I suppose that this technology could also be used to for local station or college radio stations to gain access to a wider audience. it would be great if college alumni or anyone could listen to their college radio station regardless of where they currently live.

    The only issue is that every station would have to develop their own smartphone application or be carried by a third party (such as stitcher radio). then the application would have to be compatible with Ford’s system. One day this could happen and that would offer potentially limitless choices of radio stations in your car.

    What a great world that would be.

  3. grudgeback April 26, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    Radio is really now a part of human entertainment despite the fact that there are more entertaining media like television and the Internet. Because also of evolution of entertainment media, radio entertainment has also evolved. Nowadays, people use online radio while surfing the Net like me. I’m currently listen to myradioworld, an ONLINE RADIO, that allows you to tune in to over 20,000 radio stations from over 200 countries. If you’re interested, try to visit this link:


  4. lukasaltar April 26, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    i am trying to listen to some music on my computer at work but all internet radio websites that i have tried have been blocked. does anyone know a website that is NON streaming that i can listen to at work??

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