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Starting Today: Volkswagen Needs Your Input (To Beat the Ford Sync)

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Screencap from Volkswagen's 'App My Ride' contest

Screencap from Volkswagen's 'App My Ride' contest

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2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

Enlarge Photo

The mobile web is big business, but that technology has been a little late catching on in cars. Now, with the imminent release of new entertainment devices  from Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and others, automakers of all stripes are fast-tracking in-car internet systems. Volkswagen may be a bit behind the curve on this, but the company is hoping that with your help, it can quickly move to the head of the class.

Let's start with a little recap. Contrary to what many believe, Apple's iPhone didn't create the mobile web. By the time the iPhone launched in 2007, cell phone subscribers around the globe -- particularly in developing countries -- were already using handhelds for email and web access.

What the iPhone did was change the way mobile users interacted with the web. That happened in July 2008 -- a full year after the handset's debut -- when Apple opened the App Store, allowing programmers to develop and sell their own applications. Then, as now, those apps were typically simple, effective, straightforward, and, by necessity, unburdened by a heavy ad presence.

It was only a matter of time before the app model migrated to autos. In fact, the new version of Ford's popular Sync system called "MyFord Touch" -- which will roll out on fashion-forward models like the 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX -- features a range of apps perfect for drivers and passengers, including one for web radio service Pandora.

Now, Volkswagen is getting in on the action, and it needs your help. Starting today, VW is hosting an App My Ride competition, soliciting ideas for its upcoming infotainment system. Contestants submit either a fully formed app or an idea for an app (along with a graphic representation of the user-interface) to the App My Ride website. The winner -- chosen by visitors to the site and a VW panel of judges -- will receive prizes totaling up to €14,000. A special student prize includes a "placement" (possibly an internship) with Volkswagen Group Research in Tokyo, Shanghai, California or Wolfsburg

Of particular interest to geeks and tech media junkies: the apps are to be developed using Adobe Flash, the platform that Apple's Steve Jobs has spent much of the past month denigrating. (Also: the platform that may take Jobs to court.) We agree that Flash has its problems, and we can see obsolescence looming, but could it stick around on in-car telematics systems longer than on other devices? And if so, does that present an opportunity to more nimble, third-party manufacturers like Garmin and TomTom to make use of newer technology? We can't say for sure on either count, but if this makes syncing our iPhone with the car stereo even harder, we're going to be seriously annoyed.

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Volkswagen Invites Users to Help Create the Infotainment Systems of the Future

Open Innovation Contest, “App My Ride”, begins on 3rd May

Wolfsburg, Germany -- April 26, 2010 -- Volkswagen is inviting designers, programmers, developers and interested users to help develop applications for the Infotainment systems of the future as part of the Open Innovation Contest, “App My Ride”. With this contest, Volkswagen has become the first car manufacturer to use the idea of open innovation for the further development of its products.

In the so-called "App My Ride" competition, users can jointly develop new Infotainment applications with Volkswagen. A jury of experts will select the winner whose creativity will be rewarded with special prizes. "Our aim is to invite the international developer community to take part in designing a future system," says Prof. Dr Jürgen Leohold, Head of the Volkswagen Group Research. So-called apps, also known as application programmes for certain devices which are available through an online shop, have helped to contribute to the smartphone boom. Applications designed by users (User Generated Content) are of central importance to the boom and are made available online by other users. Companies like Apple and Google successfully aid this nearly inexhaustible source of innovation.


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