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wireless web devices facilitate opportunity

I recently attended a talk given by some advertising and marketing professionals in the IT community at NYIT in Manhattan. I was there to network and engage in discussions about the trends in the current web and the future movement of the technology. After some discussion on the place of marketing in the area of social networks the topic of the IPhone came up. The speaker was quick to express his disdain with the IPhone as a wireless device and felt it was flawed in many ways. I however was focused not on the flaws that the current early generations of this device has but rather on the potential for all classes of wireless devices that will share the same attributes. In fact as I write this, the Samsung Instinct, Google GPhone and the BlackBerry Storm have emerged as competitive products to the IPhone in the space of what I call opportunity facilitating devices.

These devices take the pc or wireless laptop to a new realm of enabling the users to be connected not only to others in real time but to their own desires as telegraphed into the machine. These telegraphed desires are the facilitated opportunities that this post references in the title. The unique aspect that makes this possible is the ability for the machine to specify both where you are on the planet in real time using GPS and to indicate where anything else is on the planet in real time including other mobile individuals. The best way to understand what is new about these devices is to give a simple example;

Imagine that you are about to head out into the city (I live in NY so imagine you are going to Manhattan) a few days earlier you used your wireless web device to specify that it let you know when you are:

1) within 1000 yards of a McDonalds

2) within 1 mile of a Macy's

3) within 100 feet of a Best Buy

4) within 1/2 mile of your friends that live in the city, Marina, Paul, Sam or Patricia

Now you can put the device down and go on your travels, you don't have ot think about any of the indicated items until the device notifies you that one of the criteria is true as you navigate through the city. This ability to alert you to physical opportunities that you expressed interest in at an earlier date is something that doesn't exist with stand alone pc's or with wireless laptops that do not have a geolocation capability. It is true that pc's could be used to roughly get a triangulation of location using the IP address but that lacked the spacial resolution to make it useful beyond informational purposes. The same is true using cell phone towers to triangulate positions using the cellular networks as the density of towers varies greatly throughout cities and countries, the GPS is global and has the same high spacial resolution all over the world. So these devices add "location" as a critical attribute of not only other individuals but other places that you may have a desire to meet or visit but have no need to specify when you would like to do it, in essence you are enhancing your ability to experience serendipity both in finding places and in finding people and this is the greatest power of such devices. This technology will work both ways as not only can you specify your device to signal you to opportunity, the device can be configured to allow advertisers to take the opporunity to contact you. Thus two classes of software for facilitating opportunity will emerge on these devices.

a) Software that allows you to specify the details of the opportunities you would like to experience in some projected near future when the specified spacial and subject constraints are achieved as you navigate geographic space.

b) Software that allows advertisers or businesses in the locations through which you will navigate, to spontaneously reach out to you with specials or sales when you are within their spacial proximity.

From a users perspective the first type is more convenient as it will allow the users to specify exactly the criteria of contact that will trigger a facilitated opportunity. There is no way for other spacially proximal opportunities to present themselves to you outside of your field of view as you travel. This is in stark contrast to the software types in point b) which are designed to allow spontaneous marketing and sales opportunities to arise as opposed to the limited set of your own projected opportunities. Thus a conundrum exists, software designers who create projected opportunity location based web applications give up the ability to monetize the connection by charging the potential advertisers (since they can't know what the users desired projected opportunities are at the time they design the software) giving up the ability to derive revenue from use of the product. As long as a limited marketplace exists where the software can be purchased for these devices (as on the Apple Istore) the opportunity for revenue exists by simply selling the software. The spontaneous opportunity location based advertising applications however allow extraction of revenue by enabling advertisers to reach out to users as they trans locate but is not as optimal to users as they may be nagged by "opportunities" that they do not wish to entertain at the moment of notification. As the available devices and the software designed on them continue to be decoupled from the platforms that run them (the GPhone is promising to do this) the hegemony of a single location for buying applications will be removed and the revenue opportunity to design the software that is most efficient from a users perspective will go away. I gather open source developers will create these types of software anyway and make them available for download for free and over time the wireless web platform will be increasingly a commodity just as the pc platform has.

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