Earlier this month, BMW went into some extensive details about the ConnectedDrive technologies that we're going to see over the next few years.

While some of those technologies remain years in the future, the in-vehicle apps that BMW mentioned are here and now.

By its own account, BMW became the first automaker to develop an in-vehicle application-based iPhone integration system with the Mini Connected infotainment system launched in 2010. BMW itself followed suit with BMW Connected and BMW Apps in spring 2011.

BMW believes that apps are the way of the future and is expanding its own in-house app program with a new development center in Shanghai.

The ConnectedDrive Lab China in Shanghai will work with the Research and Innovation Centre in Munich and the BMW Group Technology Office in Mountain View, California. The Shanghai lab will focus on developing apps specifically for the needs and whims of the Asian marketplace.

The three units will work together on apps that focus on community, car-related functions, infotainment and location-based services.

In addition to its own work, BMW is opening BMW Connected and Mini Connected to third-party app development. This will speed the process by which your BMW will gain compatible versions of the apps you've already come to expect from your smartphone and computer.

The BMW Group will review and certify all the apps that are available to its customers, much like Apple does for the iPhone.

While Mini Connected and BMW Apps go hand in hand, BMW recognizes that driver profiles for each brand differ and apps will reflect this difference.