The Net's not just the Web

Interactive TV, Wap and PDAs are some of the devices set to unlock the real value of the Net

Interactive TV, Wap and PDAs are some of the devices set to unlock the real value of the Net

Think you get the internet? Think again. It's June 2000. We now know that Y2K wasn't the year that computers shut down and plunged us all into eternal darkness. Instead Y2K will be remembered as the year that the Internet lit us up in the UK, big time. With new-found confidence, from the chief executive downward, companies are starting to forge their e-business strategies.

However, many are forging a route blinkered by their view of what the Internet is: a website that is accessed via a browser on a computer. This misses the big picture. The Internet is an ubiquitous and ultimately personalized way of reaching content (both transactional and informational) whenever you want, wherever you are.

Computers with browsers are currently a very big part of the story, but their relevance is set to wane to the ascendancy of mobile phones, the TV, games consoles, PDAs, in-car navigation systems, the radio, kiosks and even the kitchen bin as these devices become Internet-enabled.

For any business trying to reach out to its market (be it business or consumer), these new channels offer incredible possibilities that will never be realised by computers tethered to desks. What's more, due to the way Europe regulates the wireless spectrum, it has the opportunity to lead the world in these developments.

This brave new world is not science fiction - it's already begun. Penetration of both interactive TV (ITV) and mobile Internet is rapidly rising. ITV penetration will be buoyed by the broadcasters giving away the necessary set-top technology as part of the rental plan, whilst buying a phone that doesn't have WAP built in will become increasingly difficult.

What does this mean for businesses embarking on their e-business strategies? Most importantly they should absorb this bigger Internet picture. Holding onto that, they then need to think about how these new technologies can complement the digital services they already have or are putting in place for their customers. The key word here is "complement".

These channels are not the same as each other: delivering Wap or ITV services is not just a case of allowing for a smaller screen size and a different colour palette.

These devices and those that will follow them all have very different interaction possibilities and situations in which they are likely to be used. Indeed, it is these properties that will mean they revolutionise the internet. A new Internet of opportunity has just opened up - don't miss your chance to grab a piece.

Nick Maxwell is a partner at the e-business consultancy Quidnunc.

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