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CES Meets Detroit: Autonet’s WiFi-On-Wheels

The latest thing in cars isn’t being flaunted at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It’s in a booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Autonet Mobile CEO Sterling Pratz told “Squawk Box” of his company’s business model: creating “an ISP for cars.”

Speaking from the Nevada gaming town, Pratz described Autonet’s system that converts autos into wireless broadband – or WiFi -- “hotspots.”

The hardware plugs into a cigarette lighter – but the system is “not really for the front seat,” the CEO pointed out. He told CNBC’s Becky Quick that Autonet’s WiFi-on-wheels is geared toward passengers and especially kids, who will presumably engage in social networking -- via Web sites like News Corp.’s MySpace – and instant-messaging through Internet firms such as Yahoo!, Time-Warner’s AOL and Google.

And Autonet has a deal geared for those perpetually on the go: Pratz, who notes that his own background is “primarily in autos,” touted a contract inked with Avis Budget Group’s rent-a-car unit, slated to start in 2007’s first quarter.

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