RealTime IT News

Ford Goes Wireless

Take one part QUALCOMM Inc. and blend it with one part Ford Motor Co.

What do you get?

Wingcast, a single firm that merges Internet information services with new cars and trucks being built on an assembly line that used to produce the Model-T.

The two combines combined forces Monday to unleash a single firm tasked with developing mobile information services that deliver voice, entertainment, Internet access, and safety services into new vehicles.

Expect a series of alliances to make the mobile information vision real. Tentatively dubbed Wingcast, the new firm intends to work with the leading industry hardware, software, and content providers to offer state-of-the-art, in-vehicle applications to consumers.

Ford cars and trucks will be the initial recipients of Wingcast's anticipated products and services. Ford expects more than a million of its new cars and trucks to be equipped with Internet access by the end of 2002 and virtually all of its cars and trucks in less than four years.

Jac Nasser, Ford president and chief executive officer said Wingcast is Ford's vehicle for redefining the future of mobile communications.

"We are not only transforming the automobile into the next mobile portal, but also are creating a new company that will develop and deliver a collection of leading-edge technologies and services," Nasser said.

Combining QUALCOMM's Code Division Multiple Access wireless technology with Ford's telematics and consumer expertise, Wingcast will offer consumers a fleet of online services. Located in San Diego, CA, Wingcast plans to introduce its first services in cars and trucks late in 2001.

Irwin Jacobs, QUALCOMM chairman and chief executive officer, said the deal demarcates a new era of wireless Internet services.

"Beginning next year, evolved and new CDMA cellular networks will enable high-speed, widely available, low-cost access to the information superhighway," Jacobs said. "Wingcast will support a broad range of mobile services and become the first portal to offer consumers unparalleled wireless Internet access."

Harel Kodesh, formerly of Microsoft Corp. has been tapped to lead Wingcast as its president and chief executive. He said Wingcast would leverage new technologies to deliver the unique communications services it intends to offer soon.

"Cars and trucks will soon become the fastest growing mobile platform for seamless communications and digital information services," Kodesh. "Wingcast will leverage best-of-breed technologies to deliver unique capabilities that are completely focused on the customers and their experiences."

International Data Corp. estimates that the telematics market will grow to $42 billion by 2010 from $1 billion in 1998.

Ford and QUALCOMM each will own equity in Wingcast, but detailed terms and actual investments have not been disclosed. Additionally, Cartell, Michigan-based supplier of telematics equipment to automakers, is a minority equity stakeholder in the company.

Wingcast services will be available initially in North America over cdmaOne digital wireless networks. Advanced service offerings leveraging high-speed wireless networks may become available as third-generation CDMA technology developments are built in to wireless networks.