Media Without Wires: The browser was just a start

Ready or not, wireless portable devices are hitting the streets in a big way. Already, the Phone.com browser is installed on millions of cell phones in America, and in other parts of the world the penetration is even more pervasive. The statistics are astounding:

* There will be 21.3 million mobile data users in the U.S. by the end of 2001 says industry analyst firm the Yankee Group.

* By 2003, industry analysts expect there will be more than 1 billion mobile phones in use across the globe according to a recent article in CNET News.com.

* By 2004, a full 40 percent of e-commerce transactions outside the U.S. will be done via portable, cellular-enabled devices claims the GartnerGroup.

Smart advertisers are looking at wireless devices as marketing vehicles and are beginning to develop strategies for reaching customers today. Once the industry matures and richer media formats begin to appear, new advertising and marketing opportunities will quickly take shape. Advertisers familiar with the space will be in a unique position to capture more customers and speak to them effectively.

Not ready for prime time

Currently, the method for communicating with customers on portable wireless devices is relatively crude. Text is the primary format for communication on phone-style devices mainly because of the small screen sizes. PDA devices are beginning to outgrow a primarily text interface because of higher screen resolution and color, although the delivery is still rough.

Bigger, faster, with pictures

More and more companies are developing the future of portable wireless communication. Existing PC formats are finding their way onto smaller screens through digital streaming video, interactive animation, and advanced interfaces. Companies such as PacketVideo are porting MPEG-4 standard video players to PDA devices, along with Macromedia and Flash.

Streaming formats will most likely have to adapt to the bandwidth characteristics of wireless devices. Pre-caching techniques might offer wireless devices the ability to download while the device is not being used. Rich ad delivery on wireless devices would be possible through pre-caching technologies like Unicast's Superstitial(tm), which silently pre-caches while the user is not active. This allows for larger, richer delivery without latency.

Is Web technology enough?

Tremendous development efforts are going into richer media formats on portable wireless devices, and while these new developments will change the way people interact, they will also converge with device specific technologies. The most alluring technology to hit wireless devices is the Bluetooth standard, which allows devices to communicate with each other based on proximity. For instance, a movie theater could, in theory, send movie preview video clips to your cell phone as you wait in line at the theater. Airlines could provide flight information for those waiting at the gate for their flight. Restaurants could display images of their cuisine to users in a specific area. The list goes on.

A brand with a thousand faces

As the digital world continues to grow out in just about every direction, the opportunities for advertisers to reach customers is going to skyrocket. Understanding how to speak with these customers in the right atmosphere, with the right tone, and in the right format is going to be key to the success of this new massaging. Brand extension over portable wireless devices is going to be a great first step in the future of digital marketing.