GM and Hotline help peer-to-peer hit the road

General Motors is taking advantage of peer-to-peer technology so it can get more mileage out of its promotion dollar, but one analyst said he didn’t really enjoy the ride.

General Motors Corp. and Toronto-based Hotline Communications, a developer of Internet collaboration, communication, and community-building software, announced a pilot program in late July to create a Pontiac Aztek online community using peer-to-peer technology.

Ryndee Carney, spokesperson for e-GM, which is responsible for the car maker’s Internet activity, said Aztek owners had already formed a group similar to this on Yahoo!. GM officials thought they would make a bit easier for them to learn and chat about the vehicle on the official Web site, she added.

“They are already doing it,” Carney said from her Detroit office. “And it would be great if the word of mouth and the passion for the vehicle from those who already own Azteks spills over and others bought vehicles. That would be a wonderful thing. We are trying to sell more Azteks.”

With Hotline’s Private Label Server community-building application, owners of the Aztek, a sports recreation vehicle, will be able to interact with other owners and with the company on Aztek Connect. Aztek expects that owners and those interested in buying the vehicle will share related content and experiences, chat in real-time and participate in discussion forums. The software is available on the Aztek Web site.

Made popular by, peer-to-peer (P2P) describes a type of network in which each workstation has equivalent capabilities and responsibilities, unlike the more familiar client/server computing environments.

However, Michael O’Neil, country manager for Toronto-based IDC Canada, said it wasn’t clear to him that Pontiac was taking advantage of what P2P has to offer.

“I think there is potential power in P2P, but what is part of that power is that it is organic and it is not owned and directed by a central authority,” he said. “On both the Hotline site and the Pontiac site there are different corporate entities attempting to direct the shape and evolution of the community.”

John Caliendo, chief financial officer at Hotline Communications Inc., said it will take a while to get the Web site going, but he expects that Aztek’s dedicated followers will be using it more actively within eight weeks.

“The way we see this unfolding is that GM provides the framework, or the building, and to the degree that they give the people who come in freedom to run around in the building with be the degree to which this will grow organically,” he said. “There is a corporate agenda, which is the Web-centric model, but it can go beyond the purely corporate-controlled content to something where greater freedom is pushed by the community.”

O’Neil, who recently published research which found that peer-to-peer computing will impact how knowledge is shared in the future, agreed that GM and Hotline have a role to fill with P2P – but said they aren’t filling it yet.

“The whole notion of P2P is that it enables direct communication between members of the network and that it enables any node on the network to act as a server,” he said. “Going to the Aztec site, it is not obvious that there is a lot P2P activity here. If they are using it, that’s nifty, but I am not seeing the benefit here.”

O’Neil said that this P2P activity on the Web site may be “happening some other day, but just not today.”

Hotline and Pontiac are promoting this to Hotline’s three million users through an ad campaign and Aztek owners are receiving information via a direct-mail campaign.

More information about Pontiac and the Aztek can be found at Hotline Communications in Toronto is at and IDC in Toronto is at