Ford Dreams Big in China

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Ford (NYSE: F  ) keeps finding ways to stay on the leading edge of dashboard tech, even when it's toiling away at the other end of the world.

Ford announced on Wednesday that it was teaming up with Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU  ) and China Unicom (NYSE: CHU  ) to introduce a range of infotainment offerings for Chinese drivers.

Appearing at Shanghai's Mobile Expo Asia, the unlikely trio of the popular U.S. automaker, China's leading search engine, and the world's third largest mobile carrier hope to transform Ford's SYNC AppLink technology into a viable platform for developers to give motorists more options in entertainment and information as they get around the world's most populous nation.

This isn't vaporware.

Ford already has nine AppLink apps ready to roll, including Baidu's street mapping application that will help validate the search giant's presence in mobile.

Dot-com darling SINA (NASDAQ: SINA  ) is also developing for the platform. Ford announced that SINA has a weather app for the infotainment platform, and naturally there will be a way for drivers to check in with SINA Weibo, the fast-growing micro-blogging platform that's been often referred to as the Twitter of China.

SYNC AppLink lets anyone with a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone to use the handset's connectivity to run dashboard apps.

Ford has always been on the cutting edge of consumer tech. My Ford Flex may be two years old, but it does things that many new cars still can't do like seamlessly stream Spotify or use my phone to perform automobile analytics.

Even companies that would seem to like things the way they are find it better to partner with Ford. Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI  ) announced last month a stateside deal for the million drivers with Ford's SYNC AppLink to access and navigate Sirius XM's on demand and customized radio offerings. The move makes Ford the first auto manufacturer to provide access to MySXM and SiriusXM On Demand functionality through a car's radio controls, steering wheel buttons, or Siri-like voice commands.

For now, the focus is on making some serious inroads in China.

Ford is giving developers in China Unicom's app store access to SYNC AppLink to flesh out their mobile programs. Ford also recently launched a developer website in Chinese, making it easier for developers to brush up on the platform and potentially introduce applications in any of Ford's global markets.

XTC sang about roads girdling the globe. Ford is living it as a global leader in dashboard technology.

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