Information Highway: The Sequel

Dec. 21, 2004

Not long ago, any mention of the Internet invariably dubbed it as the "information superhighway." It's a clich more than ready for the scrap heap, yet it may be reborn when General Motors Corp. rolls out its "Web car," an Internet-enabled vehicle that has techies waxing ecstatic. "People spend an average of 80 minutes a day in their cars," says Scott McNealy, chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems Inc. That number of "dashboard" hours, he says, would make a TV network jealous. A TV network? Richard M. Lee, project leader for GM's newly created e-GM unit, says the comparison isn't far-fetched. "We think a car with a high-bandwidth Internet connection could provide a very rich consumer experience," he says. "The sky is the limit." Mum on what exactly might be offered, Lee insists that the idea is not pie in the sky. "The vehicle is a delivery mechanism for a broad base of content," he claims. "And we will be a big source of that content. It could be a very lucrative business to be in." Presumably the vehicles also will provide transportation. The concept isn't new. Global positioning systems and GM's own OnStar system can be seen as precursors. McNealy says every car could have its own Web site that would track maintenance and alert owners to scheduled repairs and other issues. And, he says, a car with Web access would make it possible for many people to work from their cars, eliminating the need for offices. And everyone would have a window.

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