Here is a question

Here is a question – What does a smart phone have in common with a car?Here is another – What does convergence really mean?

Before I get to the answer…

Last week I reported from CES – the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I talked about the Candy Store feeling and all the wild stuff that was on its way.

This week I’m reporting from Detroit, where I attended the Detroit Auto Show, which for over a century has defined Detroit’s power in the industry and for the past 20 years or so has helped to define the global market as well:

http://www.naias.com/the-2010-show/overview.aspx

As a kid with a love for metal, I eagerly awaited the pictures from the show of the concept cars and would hang the really “cool” ones on the wall of my room, dreaming of the day they would be real and I would own one – my first car was a Dodge Charger RT with a 440 Magnum – don’t ask…my parents still cringe – metallic blue with a black stripe around the tail….

Last year the show was a shadow – understandable given the economy and the state of the global, in particular U.S., car industry.

This year there was definitely a more optimistic tone, but still, some companies like GM did nothing more than display “cars on carpet” – no demonstrations, no info kiosks, no young experts to answer your questions and further excite your curiosity.

Having said that, there was still a lot to see, and if you follow the links I provide, you will get a sense of what was on display:

http://www.insideline.com/auto-shows/detroit/?mktcat=IL-shows&kw=detroit+auto+show&mktid=ga11335701

But here is the thing – I don’t know about you, but although I follow reviews carefully and love to listen to what the reports – of any kind – say, I also like to follow the crowd – the social networking experience at its best and most powerful. It’s like reading a bad movie review and then discovering that for 4 weeks it’s the number one attended film in the world – the so-called pros went one way, but the people – those who buy and get the point – went another.

Here is the point – and I will get to my questions in a minute – I didn’t forget….

Small cars, yes; electric cars, yes, all true – there was interest – new models even from some of the more challenged participants – also, yes – a few cool concept cars – no doubt.

But the crowds were at Ford.

Full disclosure – they are a client…but the crowds were there.

Going back a week to CES Ford was also present. Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, gave one of the keynote addresses. A car guy at CES? A car guy at the home of cool electronic gadgets and converged devices?

Now to my questions…

Smart phones have everything to do with cars and that is because (answer to my second question) convergence is really about life and not about screens or systems or content alone.

For years we’ve seen the “concept” kitchens – who really needs a TV in their fridge? Come on!!!

But cars are different. Very much so.

Music is already an integral part of the driving/riding experience; GPS is too, and phones are as well – not to mention computers, DVDs, BlackBerries and whatever…but not all integral to the car…and too often being a dangerous and sometimes fatal distraction.

When Ford presented at CES – it was all about convergence. How to converge the experience of driving safely with the need we have to be in constant touch, always on communication, GPS/Music/Talk/Text, whatever, all converged into one system that allows for safe driving and full connection – concept? Stuff of the future? Check it out:

http://www.autoblog.com/2010/01/07/myford-touch-and-sync-app-ecosystem-hands-on-and-video/

The audience got it – both in Las Vegas and in Detroit – and they get that it’s here now.

I must also report that another aspect of this (hold on to this one) was the Ford cars that park themselves – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW-MhoLImqg – I tried it – wild!!!

So what’s my big take?

What interested folks at the show was the wild, futuristic, cool stuff that they can buy today. There were fewer concept cars than ever and, frankly, none of them excited even me – an unabashed photo hanger of the yet to be – but who got really excited about what I can take home today that is really leading edge.

All of which led me to this week’s quote, which I found to be almost providential in its message:

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

Henry Ford

And there you have it – a thought for all of us that has always been true – but today maybe more than ever.

In a world where the future is often here and incremental whatevers are just not worth the wait – reputation is about what we do and deliver. Today…

Think on that – next time you plan or promise or plot – we have so much that we can have yet to do with what we have, why waste the opportunity on what we don’t? Business or personal…

What do you think?

PS – check this out…. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/darpa/

Did have to provide one big futuristic thought – imagine if driving was the real distraction and not texting…imagine that the car experience was for your personal time and that the car drove itself…coming soon….

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