Our eyes eventually glaze over at all of the car industry's "limited editions," "value editions," and "sport editions." But Chrysler has just announced a "Web edition." OK, now we're awake.
It's not so much a car but an option package comprising a bunch of tech toys all tied to the Net by an Autonet Mobile router branded as Chrysler uConnect Web. The gear includes a Dell Mini 9 Netbook, an 8GB iPod Touch, a Sony PSP, and a digital camera with an Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD card. All in, $1,999 including a year of service.
It gets unveiled tomorrow at the S.F. Auto Show in a specially badged Town & Country and will be available as a dealer-installed rig from Chrysler, Jeep, or Dodge dealers (as long as they're around!).
Autonet CEO Sterling Pratz says, "We're emphasizing this as the next entertainment platform in cars" more than a communication and productivity platform, though you can do whatever you want with the system. Bits is bits. Trip-centric Web services like Fandango and OpenTable are naturals for a Web rig in the car.
This seems to play more toward the "wanna-dopters"--people who aren't totally on top of tech, but really want to be. (You've rubbed elbows with them at Best Buy.) The tech savvy don't need to be spoon fed a complete array of gear; for them there's a leaner version called Web Edition Limited that is simply the wireless router, a year of connectivity, and the Dell Mini 9 for $1,100.
Certainly, this is partly a trial balloon, building data on how to get consumers familiar with--and unafraid of--Web in the car. It's one of those things a lot of people don't grok without touching it. Like the Palm Pilot or TiVo, many won't get it until someone plops them down in front of the technology. Now the race is on to see who does the plopping first and best: BMW and Mercedes are also keen on the mobile Internet idea, and Delphi may soon be enabling many others.