Opera Mobile and mobile internet leading the charge to save the U.S. car industry?

Thursday, April 2, 2009 18:59
Posted in category Featured, Tech Politics


The auto industry is in shambles.  The cause depends on who you ask.  For some, it is the years of mismanagement.  For others the resistance to developing other cars besides SUV’s.  What you might not know however is a smaller group who consist of those who believe the lack of technology in cars is the Big 3’s real demise.  What kind of technology do I mean?  Is it manufacturing technology, engine technology, or more “geeky” technology consisting of the gizmos and gadgets inside of the cabin?  For the next few minutes we will be focusing on the last topic — the technology inside of the cabin.  If the Big 3 drastically updated the internals of their vehicles with mobile internet all around, bluetooth technologies, etc, could it save them?


The last couple of years of seen technology in the sense of fuel economy keep foreign car manufacturers from being hurt as much their American counterparts.  However, a bigger and more recent emerging field is the technology inside of the cabin.  A few years ago all the rage was satellite radio, GPS, and bluetooth technology.  The current phenomenon — mobile internet.  Since the internet is quickly sweeping across the mobile handset world, the next logical place to push towards is the place we spend several hours a day…our cars.  Now obviously the driver can’t sit there and flip through their Facebook account while tweeting with their friends.  However, the use of the internet in the car can have much greater impact than Facebook and Twitter.


GPS is extremely handy for the directionally challenged making the once directionless lost souls able to find anything with ease.  Now tie in the internet and you have a whole new dimension to tap into.  For example, you can speak to the mini computer in your car and use the mobile web to bring up a list of restaurants in the area (with help of the GPS), then view reviews on those restaurants and decide accordingly.  Ending up with GPS bringing you to your chosen destination.  Or how about this.  You’re driving down the road and realize that you need a place to stay.  Use the mobile web/GPS combo to find, price, and review hotels that are on your way to your destination.  

Now how does this tie into the Big 3?  Well, the Big 3 like it or not are a bunch of aging dinosaurs.  Cars generally built with big gas guzzling engines with low levels of refinement and cabins that are built and look cheaply made and are void of any innovative electronics or gadgetry.  It is starting…starting to com around.  A few weeks ago Cadillac announced an in car internet option for new cars.  Ford also has an even geekier in car technology called Sync.  Sync (powered by Microsoft) is a newer technology that is but a baby in this developing world being barely more than a year or two old.  Out of the big 3: GM, Ford, and Chrysler, I believe that Ford is the company that is most advanced in regards to cabin electronics.  Not only are they leading the U.S. market with Sync, but soon with the addition of Opera Mobile.  Coupled with a mobile internet plan in your car, Opera Mobile will help usher in the next phase in in car technology: the mobile web.  The first models to be able to take advantage of Opera Mobile’s entrance into the car/web space are the Ford F-150, Super Duty, E-Series and Transit Connect trucks and vans.  New prospective buys who have a geek bone should keep this in mind when shopping for a new truck/SUV.


At first you may think they are targeting the younger generation and the geeky crowd.  In actuality the real market Ford is hoping to attract are the contractors, farmers, construction workers, etc.  Why this group of physical labor who aren’t often associated with new technology?  These groups can benefit the most from “mobile offices” as opposed to “geeks” who sorry to say it people aren’t that large of a group.  (It’s ok…we are a small but loyal following).  Just think, with internet access in your truck, the construction worker  can now view a few emails with new drawing plans attached and decide what to do on the current building project they’re working on.  The possibilities for various job fields to take advantage of the mobile internet is almost limitless.  Another great example is Microsoft’s and Hyundai’s collaboration and co-development of using a vehicle’s Onstar system and Twitter.  Just think, if/when you get into an accident, besides automatically phoning for medical help, it posts a tweet on your Twitter account where you children or other family members who follow you get quick and automatic updates.  


The above example again are but a few of the many uses that are possible with a mobile web on wheels.  Will it take off overnight?  That’s highly doubtful as at first people will be turned off by having to pay another monthly bill.  Some will be disgusted that they are paying a bill for internet at home and are now facing paying a second internet access bill for use in the car.  This is where ISP’s really need to put the greed in the back of their mind and offer a combined home/mobile/car internet plan.  An internet plan that takes care of you at home, on your mobile phone, and in your car that is straight forward and simple like that will be a key in ensuring a successful uptake of the mobile web on wheels movement.  For now, Chryslers mobile internet is pretty pricey.  Take these numbers and think about it, and “entrance fee” of $499 for mobile internet and then recurring monthly payments of $29.  Chrysler…are you nuts!?  GM is in the trouble they’re in because of poor choices.  Don’t make the same mistakes and kill mobile internet before it even gets a chance.  In order for it to gain mass appeal quickly, they car manufacturers and ISP’s will need to take a hit early and get as many people subscribed as possible.  You’ll have happier customers, more lifelong customers, and more high marks and referrals.  


The creep of the internet into all aspects and environments of our lives is a push that cannot be stopped.  Sure it won’t appeal to many of the baby boomer generation as they’ll see it as a unnecessary and frivolous add on.  Even some in the younger generation won’t bite as they either don’t have the money or are “old souls”.  Whichever the case their is a market for mobile web.  Just how big and how fast that market will grow is a question that no one can quite answer yet.  Will this new found push for technology save the Big 3?  That is also highly doubtful.  But the way they’re currently going they couldn’t possibly do much worse.


 Do you have a Ford with Sync or are planning on subscribing to Chryslers mobile internet?  Are entrance fees and monthly fees too much for you?  Share you thoughts.  Heck, tell us how the car manufacturers can make mobile internet better.


Source: Motor Authority, Tech Crunch

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