While we were out celebrating and watching bowl games, Ford chose the very end of the year (go figure) to announce an innovation in their vehicles that will impact all of us, especially those of you who own and operate terrestrial radio stations.
WiMax is coming to Ford this year or next in a cooperative effort with Microsoft, called SYNC. It means that lots of vehicles are going to be Internet-equipped, raising new issue and questions about how this will impact information and entertainment while people are on the go.
We know that iPod connectors are going to become more ubiquitous in the 2007-08 model vehicles, but the SYNC announcement suggests that Internet access will open up a world of mobile email and streaming entertainment.
So for stations that still aren't streaming their audio, the SYNC announcement is a red alert. Streaming should no longer be thought of in terms of "How are we going to pay for it?" Instead, broadcasters ought to be thinking, "If we don't have a strong streaming presence, we could get squeezed out of cars (and cell phones)."
It should be a quality stream, and it should be well-promoted on the air. As technology rockets forward, especially in cars (where radio has ruled the roost), streaming is radio's "transportation" to the next wave of automotive innovation.
The sense is strong that SYNC will be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show (or as they like to call it, The North American International Auto Show). We will be there, videocam in hand, to capture the news about SYNC, as well as other developments in vehicles that impact our world.