Multichannel infrastructure will support new Lastminute services

Online leisure and travel retailer Lastminute.com is preparing to launch what it described as "advanced mobile lifestyle...

Online leisure and travel retailer Lastminute.com is preparing to launch what it described as "advanced mobile lifestyle services", using its new multichannel technology infrastructure.

The company, which expects sales volumes to have increased by 200% by the end of the year, is keen to offer its services through as many channels as possible. To this end, it has signed deals with mobile operators Orange and Vodafone and interactive TV provider Sky Active in recent months.

To support its multichannel initiatives, Lastminute.com has implemented a new technology platform, from software supplier Volantis, which allows it to create content and applications in a device-independent format. The platform, based on open source J2EE software, automatically customises content for use on any requesting device, be it a mobile phone, PDA or interactive TV. This will be key to improving the user experience, said Pete Flint, head of multichannel at Lastminute.com.

"We have made mistakes in the past building applications for one Wap device - historically the lowest common denominator," he said. "Depending on the device used, this can affect the width of the screen, for example, which makes a massive difference to the customer."

The Volantis platform will enable Lastminute.com to re-use content on different devices - even those not released yet - without having to rewrite it in a different markup language. "Re-using content fits in with our strategy to remain flexible and scalable," said Flint. "The Volantis platform will be our building block for further growth."

In the long term, Lastminute plans to use interactive voice response and location-based services technology to enhance its offering. "Our long-term challenge is how we integrate the voice path with the content path," said Flint. "We want to become a mobile lifestyle service, where people can, for example, request a location-based service over the phone and get a map on their screen immediately."


Lastminute.com's new system

Lastminute.com's Volantis Mariner multichannel server is a J2EE-compliant, native application server designed to manage the presentation of content across multiple devices. The software contains a database of 450 devices, supporting PCs, PDAs, 2G, 2.5G and 3G mobile phones, interactive digital TV, internet appliances, games consoles and Voice XML portals. The user interface of a website on a given device is defined by policies held in the device database.

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