GM chairman to keynote CES

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner to be a keynote speaker at 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will be a keynote speaker at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show, the Consumer Electronic Association announced Monday.

This will be GM's first keynote at the trade show, which is known for attracting celebrities eager to see the latest in high-tech gadgets, as well as the world press.

Wagoner joins technology leaders Bill Gates of Microsoft, Paul Otellini of Intel, and Panasonic's Toshihiro Sakamoto, who have also confirmed as speakers for the international trade show that takes place annually in Las Vegas.

While Wagoner might seem like a stretch for a consumer electronics trade show, the choice makes sense given the increase in computer technology being implemented in cars.

The 2008 car model year is poised to be the year when things like touch screens, hands-free Bluetooth communications, entertainment centers and high-tech navigation go from after-market add-ons or high-end options in luxury models to optional or even standard equipment for entire car lineups, according to a recent report from the Telematics Research Group (see PDF).

GM has been struggling for market share with Asian competitors like Toyota, which recently surpassed GM as the world's largest automaker in terms of world sales. As part of its effort to move forward and stay competitive, the company has announced the Chevy Volt, an electric car it says will be ready for sale by 2010.

And while is hasn't named names, GM maintains that it's partnering with "top names in the software industry" to help it develop the tools for evolving its cars into computers on wheels.

"In fuel economy or safety or telematics, software plays a major role," Hans-Georg Frischkorn, executive director of global electrical systems, controls and software at GM, told CNET

Frishkorn said that GM sees software "as one of the next frontiers."