Auto Is Connected

Consumer electronics are hot.

Consumer electronics are hot. Auto’s not. Right? I mean, everyone knows that there was Cash for Clunkers, but there wasn’t Cash for Walkmans or iRivers. Somehow, the consumer electronics companies have remained comparatively vibrant in this economy, leaving the technologists in places like Dearborn removing the build-up on their battery leads with a toothbrush and baking soda, right?

Well, consider this:

The biggest consumer technology tradeshow is hosted each year by the Consumer Electronics Association. This is where all of the big names in that space reveal their wares.

So, who is going to be delivering the opening keynote address at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show? Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

Who made a keynote address at the 2009 CES? Alan Mulally.

Who made a keynote address at the 2008 CES? Former GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner.

According to Steve Koenig, industry analyst with CEA, there have historically (of course, remember that the clock speed in that industry is considerably faster than in auto) been three “screens” that they track at CEA: TV screens, computer screens, and mobile device screens. Now there is a fourth of considerable interest: The screen that is increasingly found in the dashboards of automobiles.

During his presentation when he announced Mulally’s return to the CES stage, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, stated, “Ford is acting and thinking like an electronics company.” Which is high praise, indeed, from that world.

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Alan Mulally and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, celebrating the one-millionth Ford vehicle (a Fusion Hybrid, it so happens) equipped with the SYNC system in May 2009. Ford and Microsoft are fast partners on SYNC.