I've been working my way through the video and text reporting notes I collected at CES, and I'm ready to announce my choice for my favorite product at the show -- the Ford Work Solution . In this package, it's a little larger than the average consumer gadget, weighing in a something over 4,000 pounds. For someone working in a wide variety of industries, though, the combination of serious truck and fully-functional integrated computer will be a winner.
We tend to think of highly-mobile computers as tools for mobile executives and white-collar workers, but I've been talking with a lot of contractors, farmers, and they are at least as dependent on computers as the execs. I like both the ability to do things like print in the cab from a Bluetooth printer and the availability of the RFID-tag system for keeping up with tools. They show some serious thought into how people use the trucks to get their jobs done.
I haven't checked out how difficult it might be to develop custom apps for this system, but I can imagine a lot of vertical-market integration going on for folks ranging from large-animal vets to environmental engineers and technicians. As we move forward in the recovering economy, tools like this are going to be more important as increasing numbers of us decide that we can't wait on large corporations to provide jobs.
Now, it has to be noted that the basic functionality of this system could be replicated with individual components based around a laptop or netbook computer. Companies like Duluth Trading Company and JC Whitney sell accessories to turn a truck cab into a mobile office, and the computer system pieces are readily available. Having Ford integrate the system and cover it with their 3-year vehicle warranty is going to be compelling for a lot of customers, though.
On a personal note, I really want this truck. I don't, strictly speaking, need it -- my little half-ton Chevy is perfectly functional. But that big, bright-yellow truck with all the racks and lift-rails pushes the same buttons for me that Ferraris push for a lot of other people. Sigh.