On September 15, OnStar announces what it is calling a relaunch, with new hardware and 21st-century services. We discussed the relaunch with OnStar President Chris Preuss. Most details of the announcement are still under wraps, but we were able to get some information.
Current OnStar hardware, called "the box" by OnStar staff, uses a 2G CDMA voice and data connection through Verizon, along with a GPS chip. Preuss said that on September 15, the company will announce a new box that is "better all around," with improved hardware and user interface.
A jump to a 3G chip is a possibility, although we think 4G would be unlikely. As for the user interface, OnStar will keep its blue button, but may add a graphical interface for cars equipped with LCDs.
Preuss said that the September 15 announcement will also focus on safety, a continuing theme with OnStar. We expect that any new services offered will be couched as safe alternatives to using a handheld cell phone or MP3 player.
OnStar will remain a GM exclusive telematics service, although the company may look at enabling devices outside of the automotive realm. It was suggested that in the future OnStar could work with exercise equipment or kitchen appliances.
Preuss, who became president of OnStar this year, pointed out that key members of GM's new management come from the telco industry and have a good idea of OnStar's potential.
One interesting tidbit we gleaned was that, because of GM's involvement in launching XM Satellite Radio, the company has unused bandwidth available on XM's satellites. Although we do not expect any new satellite services to be announced soon, Preuss is aware of the potential of a satellite data feed.