The Radically Expanded World Of Connectivity

Today you boot up. Tomorrow you’ll log on. And things may never be the same.

If your nose hasn’t been buried in industry rags lately, you may not know that web-based apps are starting to hit the mainstream of acceptance, especially in the B-to-B world.

Companies like USInternetworking are making major bank creating business-critical applications for companies and then hosting and servicing them on their own servers. Now, rather than have to worry about staffing the IT resources necessary to keep business applications going, companies can outsource their biz apps and then access them remotely through the web.

While companies seeking IT solutions have begun seeing their systems’ salvation in remote web-based application hosting, the same model hasn’t made too many inroads into the desktop application/consumer market. People tend to like to have the software they use on their computers. They like the fact that they don’t have to be connected to the Net in order to use them. And, most of all, people still seem to like having the actual box in-hand.

But if you think about it, who needs boxes on their shelves and software clogging their hard drives? Even more to the point, who the heck wants to pay for the gajillions of features most of us never use? If you think about software as a service like electricity, it’s almost like buying your own generating plant when all you want is enough juice to keep a lightbulb lit.

MyWebOS.com wants to change all that.

Concentrating on the PC side of the web-app world, MyWebOS has created a web-based operating system that looks, feels, and acts just like the Windows desktop you’re used to – except everything’s served from the web. Providing everything from Word Processing applications to a browser (a concept I thought was kind of oddly self-referential), MyWebOS’ goal is to shove Microsoft out of the way by providing the apps you usually cram into your hard drive on the web instead of on your computer.

And they’re not alone. Startups Desktop.com and X:Drive both provide functionality that lets the network become your computer. Desktop.com functions much like MyWebOS, offering a whole host of functions from Net apps to personal productivity tools to games, all served from the web in a desktop-like environment.

X:drive is a little bit more specialized, providing 20 megs of storage space by virtually mapping a new hard drive to your Windows machine, a hard drive that functions just like your own hard drive, allowing you to store and retrieve files with Windows-ease.

“So what,” you’re asking, “how is this any different from all those dreams of ‘network computers’ pushed by Sun? And isn’t this just like the old days when I had to log on to the LAN to use my computer? Yuck!”

Well hold your gorge – these ideas really ARE different. Why? Standards folks, standards.

Because MyWebOS uses HTML and Internet Explorer 5.0 to work its magic, any computer, device, or appliance designed to hook into the Internet using these technologies can access applications provided by MyWebOS.

The list of potential platforms is growing all the time: palmtop PCs, Internet appliances (like Netpliance), web-enabled telephones, household appliances, televisions, and even dashboard PCs for your car will, in some form or another, be able to access these programs.

Think about it: In our post-PC future, you’ll be connected no matter where you go, 24 hours a day if you want. As Internet appliances and other stripped-down communications tools become more commonplace, the whole idea of what a PC is will begin (and is beginning) to radically change.

I’m talking everything from your car to your microwave. (I’m not kidding… check out this Popular Mechanics blurb.) The web will become part of a seamless, integrated communications platform providing services and information anywhere.

What does this radically expanded world of connectivity mean to us web marketers? If used correctly, it means an unlimited capacity to build brand in ways that today we can only dream of.

Forming the ultimate end of continuum where consumers are only touched occasionally by messages delivered from a few media outlets (the old days of network TV) though the development of niche-based message delivery (cable) to the 10 million channels for your message on the web today, the explosion of radical connectivity means that we must radically re-think the way that we deliver messages.

While MyWebOS has plans to sell their service on a metered basis in the future, you can bet that some competitor is planning on offering advertising-supported applications for free – anywhere.

If nothing else, once the dust settles, media buying could very well become easier than ever – pick the target audience and use the ubiquitous delivery system of the Net to deliver your message to that audience wherever they may be – car, kitchen, work, home, school, or on the road.

Maybe. The crystal ball is still a little cloudy on the particulars. But one thing is clear – if you want to be on the leading edge, you’d better start keeping your eyes open. The future of web marketing is everywhere…

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