In-home entertainment

Feeling too lazy to leave the house to be entertained? Simply go online to get your take-away and a movie delivered to your door.

Feeling too lazy to leave the house to be entertained? Simply go online to get your take-away and a movie delivered to your door.

Staying in is the new going out according to the latest promotional material from So although Jennifer Aniston and Tom Cruise are unlikely to be giving up their glittering social lives to spend their evenings slobbing out in front of the TV, what does this mean for the rest of us?

The site most famous for selling flights has launched a 'Staying In' section in order to serve all those allegedly time-poor people out there. It is also a good opportunity to capitalise on the rapidly growing take-away food and in-home entertainment markets.

Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of the Lastminute site, believes the new section will encourage people to use the site every day instead of just when booking holidays. "Lastminute isn't just about one category of products," she says. "Half the people who use us do so for entertainment. There is no-one else doing head-on what we do, which is always a big surprise to us. So although there is competition in the vertical markets there is no-one offering our broad range of products."

As well as being able to book take-aways and restaurants, the Staying In add-on also includes multi-channel personalised TV listings with email reminders, 24-hour DVD delivery and retail products for the home market like books and videos.

The eat-in service is currently limited to areas of London, Bristol, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Any punter living in these locations just needs to type in his postcode to order food from a range of local restaurants listed as a supplier. Urbanbite was the company who originally launched this idea but were purchased by in July 2001. The service is free to users as restaurants pay a commission per order.

The localised search facility has been made possible thanks to some rather hi-tech sounding geo-spatial technology. This has been implemented across the whole website.

"It is taking advantage of lots of the trends that are going to happen anyway," says Lane Fox. It allows users to search for products and information based on location. "This is absolutely not an idea that would work in the offline world," she continues. "It is an idea that is enabled by technology and will get better as more people use this technology".

Lastminute has high hopes for its new search engine. "Geo-spatial is all about becoming more local, more personalised and not just when you're at home," she says. "If you're in Madrid and you want to stay near the main square you just type in the address and 'ping', up will pop all the hotels we have round that place".

Babak Fouladi, head of new platforms, agrees that location is key for all products. "One of the most distinguishing attributes of a product is its location and one of the most distinguishing attributes of you is where you are.

Fouladi does, however, warn that the geo-spatial system is only as good as the data you give it, "what you learn in computer science from day one is garbage in equals garbage out".

The geo-spatial technology is adaptable across all platforms so when mobile commerce does eventually take off all the infrastructure will already be in place. "We haven't made big investments into new platforms because the penetration isn't there. We won't miss the boat but we're not going to invest before the curve," says Lane Fox.

But who exactly is going to book a take-away over the Internet? "That user is the typical Internet user," replies Lane Fox.

"Certainly what we're already finding is that as the Internet profile changes so does our customer profile."

The days of scrambling around looking for the pizza delivery number may be numbered, but the feeling that you should go to the gym more often will sadly linger on.


Read more on Operating systems software