Wireless Musings

At E3 a couple of weeks ago one of the amazing data points was that South Korea is 67% wireless! What are they all doing with these wireless computers? It seems like they are playing MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games). South Korea is the biggest market for this phenomenon. If you haven't yet experienced one of these, go to Sony's and check out Everquest (the #1 in the world) or their new game PlanetSide. We are constantly looking for the next new medium, and if South Korea is any indication, wireless critical mass results in different habits. Apparently the population is playing games, doing IM and email and other online activities wherever they are. They probably feel that it beats reading a book or magazine while waiting for that meeting to start.

Fortune magazine reports that Activision thinks the Advergaming market could be worth $100 Million to them. If that is true, what could it be for someone like EA, Microsoft or Sony? And embedding either obvious or subtle messages into console games (think ads vs. product placement) is one thing. Putting them into online games is a whole other ballgame. How so? In a video game today, you can't really change the product placement once you ship the game. (Although that could change too in the future-look at the technology that puts virtual outdoor boards behind home plate in a TV baseball game and you see how this could happen). But in an online game, changing the environment or the sponsor of a game is simply today's download when you log in. As a result, marrying the Advergaming marketplace and MMOGs produces a whole new medium with lots of flexibility.



From E3 I traveled to NY to the IAB Leadership Conference. The buzz there was Verizon's decision to put 802.11g hubs into all of their Manhattan phone booths. This is nothing less than brilliant. It involves real estate that they are already paying for with technology (pay phones) that is rapidly becoming outmoded. Now that real estate has a brand new purpose and can probably produce a lot more income down stream. The prospect of being able to go anywhere in Manhattan and be wired through a single provider is truly awesome. This should increase not only the laptop marketplace but also the use of the new pen computers, a number of which were in use at the conference.

One more area I'd like to discuss relative to wireless is the growing impact of mobile phone text messages. The publicity relative to American Idol was about the people who could not get into the 800 numbers to vote. The success story was the massive amount of voting via SMS with a solution driven by Mobliss. No worries about busy signals using this technology.

This is another arena where Asia is leading the pack. Another Fortune article talked about the use of text messaging in China between individuals about SARS. No serious tracking by the government with this technology, unlike the email systems in China. As a result, individuals feel free to pass information around to each other about what is going on in various places. In fact, the Hong Kong authorities reportedly responded to rumors that the city was about to be quarantined by sending six million text messages to deny the rumors.

It will be interesting to watch the US media market as wireless communications in all forms achieves the critical mass here that it has already achieved in much of Asia. That will create a tipping point where the media landscape will change again and new opportunities abound.

David L. Smith is President and CEO of Mediasmith, Inc.

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