Marchwicki is all about the apps.
Ford Motor Company
As global product manager for Ford Sync AppLink, he’s at the center of
what automakers are doing to entice young people into buying cars. Bigger
engines don’t do the trick anymore, according to experts in that world; so Marchwicki
works with companies like Pandora, Stitcher and Clear Channel to deliver
in-vehicle connectivity to infotainment sources.
is the automaker’s connectivity system, AppLink is an application programming
interface. Marchwicki works with companies in application development and
content creation and distribution, wireless handset and platform development,
to deliver features into cars that consumers want.
The Northwestern University computer engineering grad spoke with Radio
World News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson about how “radio” in
all of its forms fits into the new dashboard, part of a new series of articles
on radio’s role in the evolving world of consumer electronics.
RW: When you think of radio, what
comes to mind?
When I think of radio, I think of an easy way to access localized content for
any reason anywhere in the world. That content can be anything. It’s music, it’s
news, it’s all sorts of things.
There’s obviously a ton of content that’s delivered through radio.
Traditionally, radio’s only been [in one] area… When you leave that area … you
lose the radio stations that you’re familiar with at home and you suddenly have
different radio stations, different personalities. Obviously, between areas,
you lose signal and you have to find something new.
the age of the Internet and mobile phones as data connectivity has brought us to
a world where I can access any radio station anywhere in the world anytime; and
I personally think that’s fantastic. … Now we’re entering a world of
applications and a world of data connectivity everywhere.
RW: Radio in the car is changing so
much with connectivity with the phone.Jacobs Media is now Ford’s development house
and I’m wondering, AM/FM traditional radio is trying to stay relevant in the
dash. They want to be on that first screen that comes up. What should stations
My thinking is they need to start categorizing their content and making the
unique aspects of their programming available to anyone at anytime.
One of the good things that Greater Media has done with its properties,
they’ve started to record the morning shows and make them available. Basically
you’re caching content … so you miss the morning show, but you wanted to hear
it later in the day or later that week. Morning shows are great but sometimes
you miss a segment. How do you get that segment?
RW: You can podcast…
You can podcast it or you can get it from the application inside the car. Or,
for example, you say “I’m going to time-shift. I missed this. Maybe I can start
at the beginning and listen to it.” And I can get back in the car later and I
can listen to the rest of the morning show on my way home. … You can access
that type of content through many applications. But the way you access that is
you start to categorize that. You start to take the unique aspects of your
station, your programming, and make that available outside of the time in which
it was broadcast.
drivers with Sync AppLink now listen to and control Greater Media radio
stations on their smartphone using voice commands. Stations include Detroit’s
WRIF(FM) and WCSX(FM), on 101.1 and 94.7 MHz respectively.
Ford Motor Company
RW: Making it available through an
Applications are definitely very common; it’s a good way to go. Companies like
Jacobs Media can help get you that content into an application. So there’s
that. There’s also making it available on the Web. However I think there’s a
piece that’s missing. You need to connect your listenership with that
experience. What we’ve seen with Clear Channel, for example — they’ve taken their
programming and they’ve created a method by which you can access all their
content at any time.
RW: You’re talking about
I’m talking about iHeartRadio, an incredibly powerful, fascinating product.
What a smaller radio station may want to do, for example, they can work with
someone like a Jacobs Media or anther apps development house. So they have this
application, and they can get their content and start to store and publish
their content outside the context of their programming. But that missing step
is they need to connect their listenership that is listening on the
radio, they need to connect them to that application. They need to incentivize
use of that application, and they need to present, potentially, new content,
whatever that may be. … You need to give them a reason to go digital. And then
you need to start presenting them a unique experience so you’re prepped for a
world where terrestrial radio — and I don’t expect it to go anywhere anytime
soon — we’re going to start to see user trends change away from terrestrial to
a more broadened device strategy through a connected strategy. That’s the way I
see the industry changing.
RW: So we can expect to see music
tastes changing away from traditional media or…
No, it’s more about how users are listening. The other thing I’d add is, a lot
of what I’m saying concerns music content, but [it’s] the same with news. There
are stations in certain markets that still do some of their own news, they have
someone that reads the news, that’s something that can be provided to their
customers through this digital experience.
RW: How does ford view HD Radio?
Sync was one of the first infotainment systems to include HD.
We have HD Radio. It’s a fantastic product. There are some advantages. You have
higher [audio] quality, additional metadata and they continue to innovate in
this space. There’s higher bandwidth and you have more content on some of the
sideband channels that you have on particular frequencies. We have it in many
of our vehicles. It’s a product that some of our customers are asking us for.
It’s definitely something we’re going to continue to have in our vehicles.
RW: What about satellite radio. Are
you still going to include that in your product?
SiriusXM [has] a lot of compelling content that is available everywhere in the States.
You don’t have the same problems that a traditional AM/FM station does, which
is you drove out of range. Users are asking for it. They’re demanding it. For
the foreseeable future I don’t see us moving away from satellite in any way.
We’re just trying to give consumers options, more choice. Some customers
may not want satellite radio but they prefer Pandora, so [we] provide whatever
it is that they want to listen to, we provide that experience to them.
RW: You’re trying to give them
everything they’re asking for.
That’s the goal of the developer program, which allows us to bring greater
content from all over the world. That’s what’s important. Because we’re talking
about North America, but there are plenty of radio stations in Europe and Asia
where we sell a significant amount of vehicles. They are just starting to get
into these trends as well where you have these digital experiences on devices.
part of why we did the developer program. I don’t know what radio station is
popular in Germany. But a developer in Germany knows. They’ve probably already
created the application that does … radio, so if I bring vehicles to Germany
that have AppLink, there are applications that support that experience inside
RW: For a more high-level question;
why is Ford employing apps as opposed to building a different radio?
One of the reasons why is we want to be able to, as a car company, keep up with
changing trends in technology [is] because it takes us so long to design and
engineer a radio, and then build it into a car. By the time the radio in a car
is built, it’s almost a year and a half old. With this technology, with Ford
Sync AppLink, we can stay relevant.
Say there’s a new radio station or new content that’s coming. How do you
plan for that? HD Radio has all this fantastic content but you can’t get it
unless you have an HD tuner. But the data can come to you through your phone.
And the phone can present that to you like it’s integrated. It can look like it’s
part of the experience and I never have to change the car again. … I didn’t
have to add a tuner.
enabled the NPR news app to be voice-activated through the Sync AppLink last
Ford Motor Company
and FM always going to be in the dash?
Probably. I think there’s something very visceral about turning a car on and
having audio come out — not needing and requiring a data connection. Me
personally, there could be some very, very low-cost vehicles that only have
some speakers and don’t have a tuner, for example. They use everything through
a mobile device. That’s possible, but I don’t see that happening for a long,
RW: How does the Jacobs Media deal
If you’re a radio station and you’re looking for an application to be developed,
Jacobs Media or JacApps … are in the business of getting your content and
helping you take that content and go digital and get it onto their application
platform. They can create a branded experience for you on Android and iOS
RW: What’s Ford’s part in that?
Our part is we’ve worked with Jacobs Media. They understand how our [software
applications] work. So now when you come to Jacobs Media and you want to
leverage their services, they have the ability to also add the AppLink capability
to your applications. … Not only do you get an application, but you also have
that application enabled in our vehicles so that it works with voice and some
other items as well.
RW: It was interesting when you were
talking about Germany, for example, and that AppLink works for a Ford that can
be sold in any country. So a local station in a country could have their
particular app, and the driver could customize the stream?
The driver customizes their experience by customizing their phone, which they
already do today. Our technology works based on the smartphone. If you want a
particular radio station or stations, you download that app to your phone, and
that application is available inside of your vehicle.
RW: Do you physically connect your
phone to the dash with a cord, but you’re controlling your screen either by
voice command or some other way?
The phone. On an Android phone it connects wirelessly, and on an iPhone you
connect with a USB cable. But once you’ve done that you just put your phone
away. And then you can control the app with voice or steering wheel controls or
buttons inside of the car.
RW: Is there anything else we should
know about how Ford views radio in general?
It’s definitely a big experience and we’re probably, more than any other
automaker, trying to bring as many applications, trying to give the consumer as
much choice as possible when it comes to their music listening. It’s not just
about iHeartRadio. If you’re a WCSX or WRIF listener [in Detroit] those are
fantastic music properties that are now available inter-vehicle,
voice-activated. Jacobs Media’s helped us accomplish that goal significantly.
We’re here to help everybody. That’s what the developer program’s all about.
RW: So down the road there could be
other companies developing the radio apps…
RW: And they would work with Ford
They would deal with the developer program, would be able to provide them with
the necessary resources to create their products.
RW: Is the idea with AppLink,
somehow the profits can be shared? Say If a station can send a coupon, or
RW: But for the app program, does
Ford get a slice of…
It’s totally free.
RW: Say I’m listening to a Greater
Media station and a coupon comes up on the display. I use the coupon for a
purchase. Does Ford get a slice of that exchange?
[Shakes his head no.] Our business is
selling vehicles. We want a customer to buy a car because we offer them more
choices, more innovation, more technology than anyone. That’s the way we look
RW: When people come into showrooms
today and look at the dash, what are they telling Ford they want to see?
A lot of people ask us for Spotify [Ford
and Spotify announced a deal to collaborate on an app, targeting the end of the
first quarter for availability]. We give them an immense number of options
for their entertainment. They pretty much have everything. Obviously there’s still
some products we don’t have available to them. We are certainly moving forward
in a way that consumers have the ultimate choice when it comes to using
applications or getting the content that they want inside the vehicle
seamlessly and safely as possible.
RW: Ford has a deal with Aha …
They’re one of our developer partners.
RW: NPR and CBS Radio stations are
We launched NPR stations last year on AppLink. That’s a fantastic application,
all voice-enabled. You can get all the content. It’s one of the great things
about NPR. I was talking about categorizing your content. They do a fantastic
job with that. They actually segment all their programs you can get
three-minute segments or snippets of any NPR show ever.
RW: Engineers are talking to me
about developing station icons, instead of text or just call letters showing up
on the screen, because text or call letters on a display is boring compared to
what you’d see on Pandora, for example. Is that something Ford helps out with
No, not really. That’s the business of the station itself. We’re not in the
business of designing logos or changing the radio experience inside the
vehicle. We’re there to provide a manner in which you can interact with your
vehicle and access content. We have an HMI [Human-Machine
Interface] and there’s room for album art. There are buttons and things
that are pretty standard and straightforward. Those experiences translate
pretty well across the board between vehicles. So it’s easy to find. But once
you get into a Ford we want the experience to be one of: Here’s your vehicle
and you are now able to access the content that’s on your phone.