Will "Wireless" be a Factor? Duh!

By David L. Smith and Eliot Kent-Uritam

The other day, someone asked a panel of experts that inevitable question: "Will wireless be a factor?" With apologies to the questioner, our first reaction was "Duh!" With the technology available today, it's amazing we still depend on wires as much as we do! Granted, the questioner was talking about wireless advertising (which we will address below), but the potential goes so much further than the way we see wireless today.

Some of you have seen wireless devices like "Audrey" advertised already. As mentioned in the January 8 issue of Business Week, there is an increasing number of "Internet Appliances" now available for the home including the Honeywell WebPAD, SONICBlue's Frontpath ProGear and a product in the works from Microsoft. Audrey, from 3Com, has already begun advertising.

Most of these home appliances will work with a wireless server in the home. It's logical that once we get a wireless server in the home, separate or combined with the Bluetooth technology developed by Erickson, wires could become so "20th Century."



While capabilities and opportunities will improve, there already is domestic wireless advertising on the limited devices of today.

One company, Vindigo, is a producer of city-guide software that provides a user with content from the New York Times',, InShop, SF Gate, and The application is free to the user, so all of Vindigo's revenue will come from advertising. Available now in New York, Boston, Washington D.C, San Francisco and Chicago, Vindigo is able to target tech-savvy wireless users geographically not by the sophisticated and invasive GPS method, but by responding to the actions of the user.

For example, if a user is looking for a coffee shop downtown, Starbucks could run an ad suggesting its nearest location to those that the user has examined with Vindigo. Furthermore, a local retailer such as the Virgin Superstore could announce that the Fight Club DVD has just been released and is on sale.

Another company, Avantgo, offers content from publishers such as the Wall Street Journal, Salon, and the Industry Standard. It sells advertising on its homepage, while its content partners sell their own space. Lacking the geographic targeting of Vindigo, Avantgo is useful for targeting a tech-savvy user who is interested in such publications; recent advertisers include CNET. has developed targeted WAP advertising in the form of text links, banners, and interstitials. Others will surely follow.

There are other ways in which advertising may emerge. Providing useful information or applications associated with your brand can be beneficial, especially if the users then pass on the information virally, whether informally or beaming to others, in the case of a Palm unit.

In Asia, some companies offer free/discount wireless phone service for those users willing to listen to short audio ads. In Hong Kon

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