Garmin Hears You

I love the Consumer Electronics Show. Every year, CES rolls out the year's most intriguing new technology. For me, a technophile contributor to our Rule Breakers team, it's pure heaven.

Today, it's Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN  ) that has me on cloud nine.

At CES, the company introduced two voice-activated global positioning systems. You read that right. These devices are programmed to accept simple navigation commands, such as "Take me to the nearest Italian restaurant."

Cool, huh? I'll say. But I also find it interesting that this is one of many voice-activated services being touted for 2008. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) executive Robbie Bach told the CES crowd on Sunday that its "Sync" voice-activated entertainment system for vehicles now includes a 911-assist feature. Authorities are notified when an airbag deploys.

So far, only Ford (NYSE: F  ) has adopted Sync. But with the popularity of General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) OnStar system, it seems only a matter of time before voice-activated services become available from every car manufacturer.

By now, you're probably wondering whether I'm letting my I-heart-tech tendencies get in the way of my investing brain. I won't deny the possibility. But a close study of the history of business reveals something incontrovertible: Technology-driven disruptive change occurs only when one of these things happens:

  1. A massive business problem forces spending. (Y2K.)
  2. A breakthrough creates unparalled consumer convenience. (Digital video recorders.)

Has Garmin just created the next DVR? I'm not entirely sure. But voice-activated systems are about to get a whole lot more functional and, thereby, more attractive for road-weary commuters. Your portfolio has been warned.

Simon says ... check out this related Foolishness:


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