Could Android become the OS for everything? Ford thinks so…

Fascinating news today from Ford (by way of Mashable’s Christina Warren): the automaker has just released the first version of their SYNC AppLink platform, allowing hands-free voice control of Android and BlackBerry applications to drivers of SYNC-enabled Ford cars. The company is working on an API for developers who want to tie their smartphone app to the SYNC platform.

Ford’s approach reinforces the idea that smartphones are fast becoming the universal gateway for personalized computing. Instead of using many different personal devices in different locations, consumers will increasingly rely on their smartphone as an identity, preference and payment key that can instantly customize their experience on a host of public and private generic devices – in cars, retail stores, offices, coffeeshops, etc.

By offering Android as a free and open-source mobile OS, Google is making a strong play to become the default host and gatekeeper to this global distributed network computing system, with device makers and app developers providing the customization layer that makes the system useful and fun for specific audiences. This is a much messier and harder-to-control path than Apple’s vertically integrated strategy, but – particularly in the developing world where price is a driving consideration – a potentially much larger opportunity to shape the future of personal computing.