Cadillac has announced the availability of an in-car wireless Internet option on its CTS sport sedan beginning in April. The new option will be called Cadillac WiFi (sic) by Autonet and be dealer-installed. The device itself will have an MSRP of $499, and the service will cost $29 per month.
This makes Cadillac one of the very first carmakers to offer wireless Internet in a production vehicle. Autonet Mobile says early market experience indicates that this option will appeal to families first, as opposed to the mobile business professional you probably think would be its main initial market.
We've seen this Autonet device before (though the latest model is smaller, dockable, and sports an internal Wi-Fi antenna) and a company called Waav offers a similar rig, but what's interesting about the Cadillac-Autonet deal is that a top-tier carmaker is putting its imprimatur on general-purpose in-car Internet connectivity.
Connect a few dots, and you soon arrive at a future in which almost every service in a car--entertainment, navigation, communication--is cloud-based, and not dependent on computation or data that are captive in the vehicle.
Of course, the big competitive threat is that we all just decide to get in the car with more and more iPhones and Netbooks with integrated 3G (and later 4G) wireless connections, and skip mobile routers altogether. Companies in the emerging in-car Internet space will soon need to bring more to the party than just Wi-Fi and some 3G network massaging; they'll need to bundle and optimize services for in-car use, as well as develop car-specific interfaces, and deliver both in a way that speaks to two major use cases: driver and passenger.
That said, it's heartening to see an Internet option make its way to the showrooms of a global auto brand. It helps deliver on the sometimes breathlessly hyped promise of life in the cloud.