Explaining Southern California's economy

LA Auto Show: It's a rolling world of consumer electronics!

The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show begins two days of press previews on Wednesday. The DeBord Report is there!

Toyota's Entune system fights distracted driving and keeps drivers connected via their smartphones.

Intel is just one of mant technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, that plan to join the automakers in transforming car into rolling consumer electronics platforms.

Wireless providers are also getting in on the act. Sprint has a booth at the L.A. Auto Show to display what it can do for drivers.

Don't be a dummy and drive while distracted!


The Los Angeles Auto Show has in recent years defined itself as the "green" car show. California has the largest auto market in the U.S., as well as the most environmentally preoccupied. But the most dramatic auto debuts during car show season, running through next spring, are traditionally reserved for Detroit, the auto industry's spiritual home. So L.A. has had to kick off car show season with its own  attention-getting twist.

The L.A. Auto Show focuses on the dream machines, the future of transportation and, over the past decade, on electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, alternative fuel vehicles — in short, things with wheels that aren't total slaves to gas. But this year, it's different.

The new story is technology. Specifically, how cars will soon become platforms for various consumer electronics, mainly smartphones. In the past, automakers have preferred to design and build their own in-vehicle infotainment systems or partner with tech companies. The most prominent of these has been Ford and its relationship with Microsoft;  Ford's CEO, Alan Mullaly, has also made regular pilgrimages to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. General Motors has had a loose association with Google (and Google itself is the the auto game, with its driverless car). No one has yet broken through with Apple.

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CES: Will 2012 be the Year of the Windows Phone?

2012 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Technology Innovations

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 10: The Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone is displayed at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 13 and is expected to feature 2,700 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 140,000 attendees. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

You can feel it in the air. Or just read about it on various websites and blogs. Microsoft, long considered a bit of an also-ran in the wild new world of mobile computing and devices, is setting up for an great 2012.

At the core of the enthusiasm is the Windows Phone, which is evidently blowing everyone away at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. There are two smartphone producers who are rolling out Windows Phones in conjunction with Microsoft: Nokia and HTC. Hopes are high, but this is Microsoft. But it's not exactly springtime in Redmond just yet.

Wired offers this roadmap:

Critics may be smitten, but Microsoft still has work ahead in winning the hearts of consumers.

[An analyst who follows Microsoft say] there are four main things Microsoft needs to tackle to ensure that Windows Phone builds momentum in 2012: significant investments in quality marketing efforts; winning “flagship” positioning with carriers for several devices over the course of the year; offering a range of devices on each carrier network; and convincing salespeople that Windows Phone is just as good as iOS and Android.

It looks like Nokia, at least, plans to instigate a heavy marketing campaign to make sure the 900 gets time in the spotlight.

CES has never been a completely accurate indicator of what’s going to succeed in the year to come. What journalists and bloggers fawn over, consumers may end up shunning in favor of something else.

However, with smartphones in recent years, the “most hyped-about” phones have generally ended up faring well with mobile phone buyers. And if that’s any indication, Windows Phone stands a good chance of fulfilling our expectations.

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American Public Media's new streaming partner: Why Slacker Radio?

The International Consumer Electronics Show Highlights Latest Gadgets

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This morning, American Public Media — Southern California Public Radio and KPCC's parent organization — announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that it will partner with Slacker Radio to stream APM content through Slacker's services.

Of course, Slacker isn't the only Internet music streaming service out there. So why did APM choose it over, say, Pandora or Spotify?

Simple: Slacker enables programming. So do some other streaming services, but not in a way that would allow the APM and its programs, like the popular "Marketplace," to stand out. APM will be in good company: ABC News and ESPN are also Slacker partners.

At PCMag.com, Jeffrey L. Wilson provides a quick summary of what the various streaming radio and music services are all about. He says that Slacker is for "Tweakers" — that is allows users to customize their listening experience. Pandora, by contrast, permits much less involved modification; the whole idea is that you sit back and let the Pandora algorithm choose your music for you.

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The Gadget Age comes to an end

Report Reveals Motor Vehicle Gadgets Cause Accidents

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

My old blogging colleague from my days at CBSnews.com, Erik Sherman, has some bad news for the gadget business:

For many years, experts kept talking about convergence and how amazing it would be for consumers. Well, it has finally arrived and, yup, it's pretty cool for regular people. But converged devices means that consumer won't need nearly as many gadgets, and fewer will be sold.

Erik brings this up as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens in Las Vegas. He also references this dispiriting post from Kara Swisher at AllThingsD, which lays out some grim holiday sales numbers:

Blu-ray players: Down 17 percent.

Camcorders: Down 42.5 percent.

Digital picture frames: Down 37.5 percent.

GPS: Down 32.6 percent.

HDD: Down 25.1 percent.

Mice and keyboards: Down 7.1 percent.

MP3 players: Down 20.5 percent.

Multifunction printers: Down 9.9 percent.

Point-and-shoot cameras: Down 20.8 percent.

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