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GADGETS, MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY

The Day Your Car Will Be Provided to You for Free

via Christophe Justeau, Forbes

Who would expect today to pay the full price for a mobile phone, when subscribing to a new wireless plan with a Telecom service provider? These days for example, if you live in the US and select Verizon, you may get the serious Blackberry Curve 9330 for $0. If you select Orange in France, they will let you pick up a cool Samsung Galaxy ACE for 1€. And if you are a HSBC credit card holder in Hong Kong, SmarTone will let you select a high quality Nokia 700, for free…

This is the way the Telecom industry is doing business today: the value is not in the device, however trendy and cool it might look, with features like fancy color touch screens, high resolution cameras and large storage devices; the value right now is the vast and continuously growing range of services that are enabled through these devices that subscribers are getting hooked on… Whoever crossed recently a stream of teenagers leaving high school at the end of school-day should have a clear sense of it!

And what if this trend was not just limited to Telecom, but was cross-pollinating all industries, even those, such as automotive, where so far the device itself – the car – has been the ultimate receptacle of personal self-esteem? Many recent signals indicate an interesting trend; and the time might not be so distant when the car will be the free component of transportation related packages through which consumers and businesses will subscribe to a broad range of mobility services.

Access, consume and pay mobility services… through the car

Consider this recent move of one automotive icon: BMW announced last February their new BMW i brand; through BMW i, the company will deliver ‘innovative mobile solutions that improve urban mobility – inside and outside of the car in a quest to help shape the cities of the future’ through ‘ smart services and seamless mobile experiences’. If you look at recent announcements by Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen last May at Computex 2011 in Taipei, that they are joining the HomePlug Powerline Alliance – a 100% IT and telecom body – to define the standard ‘that will allow electric vehicles to be connected via existing home electrical wiring to a home network’ as well as ‘send and receive data over the internet via the vehicles’ charging ports.’

Obviously, the automotive industry is heading in a direction that will dramatically broaden the scope of services offered by car manufacturers AND give top players a much better control of their business through direct – and constant! – access to the end users. And it should end up commoditizing the vehicle itself, making it a secondary component in a sophisticated value chain that will include multiple usage based services such as optimized electricity charging, remote checks of the vehicle’s systems, GPS and location based services, traffic information, entertainment, pay as you drive insurance, road and park tolling, telecommunication… all services that the customer will be able to access, consume and pay through the car, like telecommunication services are consumed and paid for through the mobile phone.

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