Will you buy pizza from your TV?

While business on the Internet hasn’t taken off as much as predicted, the key could well be your mobile and the TV

When the Internet came, everyone talked of it replacing brick and mortar business altogether. But the dotcom crash happened. The second dotcom boom (for the key Internet companies anyway) looks like it’s here to stay. Also, business related to financial services, travel services and the casino are booming on the Internet.

So how close are we to having the Internet become the preferred choice for business? The truth is that a lot of companies still don’t use the Internet because they still don’t understand it. The Internet can do things for a business which no other medium can. For example, the Internet is so targeted, that it will not let you waste your time. Since it’s focused, Internet marketing is steadily gaining in popularity. And the future could well belong to contextual marketing. A case in point is Google AdSense. The revenue generated is on a per-click basis and advertisers feel that they get value-for-money.

Beam me up Scotty!

Says Fintan Orourke, CEO of Natural Search, “The Internet itself is going to change. In five years, we will be communicating with the Internet through the TV screen. The business of e-commerce will be through voice interaction. Imagine asking for a pizza directly from the TV screen.”

He also talks highly of handheld devices, saying, “It will be something like Star Trek. The way Captain Kirk said “Beam me up Scotty,” we’ll talk to our mobile and say “Find me a flight to Goa” or some such thing. Over time, TV and mobiles will be the most popular access devices for the Internet. The iPod and all will converge into the mobile phone.”

The mobile and the TV are among the most familiar and comfortable devices the world over. People trust the mobile and TV and they may be more open to doing business on the Internet through these two.

Where the world is headed to

Internet TV or peer-to-peer (P2P) TV could be the next big thing. In the long run, it will bring down operational costs and also help in accessing all kinds of content from the TV. The BBC and CCTV of China are already experimenting with P2P TV. BBC is working on Dirac, which is an algorithm encoding and decoding video and sound.

Another person who is backing Internet TV is Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. During the keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, he said, “The set-top boxes that have been connected up to cable can take a new generation of hardware and software and be far better. There’s a generation that can go even further as we get more video on-demand capability and literally anybody can watch any show at any time, even the ads can be targeted to you.”

Gates also added that Internet TV was where the world was going and that video, data and voice would finally come together.

Going mobile and how

While P2P TV looks like a revolution waiting to happen, the mobile convergence one is already happening. Mobiles are getting more and more sophisticated, screens are getting bigger and clearer. And when the 3G era finally arrives, then surfing on your mobile will not be such a painful process. Mobile ecommerce could be the next big thing. Wherever the size of the screen is not a limiting factor, the mobile will be the preferred device for accessing the Net. With mobiles getting cheaper, access is on the rise and sales are expected to top $1 billion by 2009.

The Internet is still evolving on handheld devices. Norway-based FastSearch and Transfer (FAST) has launched mSearch, which helps mobile users search for content on the Net. Starting with just ringtones, games and images, FAST believes that mobile search will be a big business in the long run. Yahoo has also tied up with Nokia and now the search giant’s data communications and entertainment services will be available with Nokia’s Series 60 mobiles. Google isn’t far behind and is also doing research on mobile search too.

(This article appeared in Living Digital magazine in October 2005)