Now, heres the big difference between the world of consumer electronics and Detroits world of automobiles. When someone like Bill Gates gets up at the International Consumer Electronics Show and talks about operating systems and home servers that only exist as PowerPoint slides, people (including myself) are quick to scoff at another vaporware announcement. When a company like General Motors shows off an electric car prototype that is further in the future than even the most optimistic high tech marketer, everyone says, "Wow!"
Our eWEEK reporter Wayne Rash does a good job here at explaining how Ford and Microsoft have teamed up to introduce Sync software for the 2008 product line that will allow drivers to connect to a variety of Bluetooth and USB devices, including PDAs, smart phones, music players and cell phones. No e-mail or gaming so far, which is a relief to those of us who cringe at the sight of an SUV coming down the road with a driver holding a coffee in one hand and cell phone in the other.
Also, as near as I can tell, Microsoft is not yet controlling the essential driving, engine and braking aspects of your car (insert your own funny Microsoft blue screen of death anecdote while going 80 miles per hour here). In any case, radio stations should follow this one closely, as once drivers are downloading and playing their favorite podcasts on the way to work instead of listening to drive-time radio, the radio business can expect one big reshuffling.
The other news at the auto show was General Motors showing a Volt electric car that runs on lithium-ion rechargeables and has its own three-cylinder engine to recharge the batteries after approximately 40 miles of gas-free driving. CNN has the story here, but anyone with a laptop computer can remember the lithium-ion recalls of last summer and know that this battery technology has a long ways to go before it is powering anyones daily trek to Starbucks.
And anyone who remembers the early Comdex shows knows that the most interesting companies were always those little techie firms tucked away in the nether regions of the exhibit hall. The same is true in the auto industry, and anyone interested in that business should take a look at the Changfeng Chinese autos. "See the USA in your Changfeng" doesnt have quite the same ring as "See the USA in your Chevrolet," but I never expected that Honda motor scooters would grow up to take on Harleys either.
Im writing this before the big Steve Jobs announcement at Macworld, but whether it is a nifty cell phone, a new IPod or a new laptop, Im willing to bet that the biggest announcement Steve Jobs could make will not be made on the stage in San Francisco. How about an apology for getting caught up in the Apple stock back-dating scandals? Not too likely to hear any mention of that one. More than an apology may be required as the investigation looking into back-dating runs its course, but it would be great to have at least one exec in the high-tech industry get up and say that no one, particularly those in the wealthy upper exec ranks, should think he or she is above the law. End of sermon.
Back to CES, Sharp showed a 108-inch television which will fit very well in all our households with 9-foot-tall ceilings. Yahoo (Im not using the ! these days and I think a ? is more appropriate) teamed with Motorola to push messaging and news on mobile phones. Go to Europe and watch all the sports fans make bets via their mobile phones before the soccer match starts; thats when this technology will have a big play in the United States. And, finally, Intel is privately showing a V8 (eight-core) PC system, which only goes to prove that despite claiming to get green, the company is still selling power, sort of like those automakers in Detroit still promoting eight-cylinder autos when hybrids are taking over the highways.
eWEEK magazine editor in chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at email@example.com.