RealTime IT News

Sun and Wingcast Drive Alternative To OnStar

The race is on to unseat General Motors's OnStar service as the premiere Internet-in-your-car system.

Wingcast (a joint venture between Ford and QUALCOMM ) has set a model year 2003 deadline for the launch of its version of the technology, also known as telematics.

Now, the San Diego-based company Tuesday says it is employing the help of Palo Alto, Calif.-based networking giant Sun Microsystems and its Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) to be the backbone of its delivery network.

"Telematics is a burgeoning technology sector, and Sun's flexible and open architecture design is well suited to promote this emerging market," says Sun senior VP and chief marketing officer John Loiacono. "As an industry, telematics can reach its potential only when systems are truly interoperable. Wingcast has all the pieces in place, and the Sun ONE platform provides the foundation for today and in the future."

The agreement means Wingcast will power its infrastructure on Sun Fire servers and will use components from the end-to-end Sun ONE framework, including software from the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME). In addition, Sun Professional Services will help with the networking architecture.

This is not the first Silicon Valley company to have a hand in the Wingcast service. Earlier this year, Wingcast signed a deal with Oracle to use Oracle9i Application Servers and databases to help with development and deployment.

But, the initiative is relatively new and OnStar has a three-year head start in the market. Ford and QUALCOMM only announced the creation of Wingcast in July 2000.

And even though research firm IDC estimates that the telematics market will blossom to $42 billion by 2010 from $1 billion in 1998, there is still a long way to go between now and Wingcast's expected product release. Both Ford and QUALCOMM are shelling out several million dollars apiece to advance the telematics industry.

So far, there has been no price point mentioned yet for Wingcast. OnStar currently charges $199 per year or $16.95 per month for its Safety & Security Plan. Its Premium plan costs $399 per year or $34.95 per month.

Still, the two companies are working closely together to develop applications that can be included into Wingcast's Java technology as well as developing architectures for mobile consumer services over the Wingcast service delivery network.

It will also be interesting to see if the new services will help sell Ford cars. The company has not been immune to the industry-wide sales slump following the September 11 attacks.

Sun says it may be able to help out with some of the sales since the company agreed to promote Wingcast services to its domestic workforce and says it will prime the industry pump with related purchase incentive programs.