Weekly Web Watch: Sense of unity, not commerce, may drive wireless Web service

What is going to drive mass uptake of new wireless interactive services, the wireless Web as Sprint PCS likes to call it? Will it be the ability to buy books from Amazon on your cellular phone? Or wireless stock trading?

What is going to drive mass uptake of new wireless interactive services, the wireless Web as Sprint PCS likes to call it? Will it be the ability to buy books from Amazon on your cellular phone? Or wireless stock trading?

What is going to drive mass uptake of new wireless interactive services, the wireless Web as Sprint PCS likes to call it? Will it be the ability to buy books from Amazon on your cellular phone? Or wireless stock trading?

Or will it be more trivial things like games or celebrity spotting?

The latter is an example of the sort of application that a new generation of start-up companies is starting to make available. One is Universal Point of Contact (UPOC) (www. upoc.com), a service that has been in limited testing since June and is about to launch nationwide. UPOC provides the tools and infrastructure to create wireless communities or interest groups.

Instead of sending voice or text messages to individuals, UPOC allows you to send a single message to a group of people. What's more, it doesn't matter what cellular carrier you're with; UPOC will translate between the different messaging standards. That's something nobody else has done yet, least of all the phone companies. The other great thing is you don't have to have one of the latest generation phones, just one that is capable of sending and receiving text messages.

It means that you too can now join New York Celebrity Sightings, one of many groups on UPOC, and notify a few hundred other people straight away when you see a famous face. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, you could simply start your own group with friends. Then you no longer need to call each one to let them know which bar you've ended up in, or when there's something cool happening that you just have to let them know about.

Not to mention the fun of simply exchanging banter - like an AOL chat room on the move. If you're wondering who on earth would want to do this sort of thing, you probably don't have teenage kids.

Wireless industry analysts are increasingly concluding that it's this type of application, not overt wireless e-commerce or productivity applications, that will drive the mass uptake of wireless interactive services.

UPOC is free to individuals, but for a fee, it will also support groups for companies or brands. This is where things could get interesting for PR pros. If you work for an organization that needs to communicate with an appeal to the oh-so-elusive Gen-Y consumer, then you know how important the cool factor is. It's not just the message that needs to be cool but the medium itself. And, for the moment, wireless messaging is it. It has all the necessary ingredients of connectedness and being part of a club.

That is why UPOC is proving popular with organizations like the Digital Club Network, a group of 60 music venues around the country, that is using the service to generate buzz with special-release tickets and inside information.

And think how a brand like Nike could put UPOC to good use. It's just right for the sort of people who would love to get voicemail from snowboarding star Mike Michalchuk. Think about the extra credibility it could generate for initiatives like the Nike Community Games. Do you work for a skate-culture brand like Bauer or K2? Or run an entertainment-related fan club?

If so, you should probably be taking an interest in wireless communities.

Of course, they won't be cool forever. But then you'll just have to think of something else.



Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at stovin.hayter@revolutionmagazine.com.



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