Everyone’s twittering about Apple’s unveiling of the iPod Touch, a new music player that’s kind of like a pocket PC. Or, if you will, an iPhone without the phoning capabilities. (Check out the news here.) The big thing about this gadget is that it has Wi-Fi capability, meaning the device can connect directly to the Internet.
The iPod Touch isn’t a big surprise. A year and a half ago I wrote about the possibility of a Wi-Fi-capable iPod, thanks to new technology that added wireless Internet capability to semiconductors used in music players (read this prescient story). The benefits were obvious: People would no longer need to connect their music players to computers in order to download music. And with VoIP, people could use this device as a phone and could get rid of their handsets forever.
While these new advances represents a potential new source for digital marketing, the chance of it being a new channel to tap into is iffy at best for now. This is because to get online requires that a user be in range of a Wi-Fi network. Such networks aren’t that widespread and often charge a fee for users (though Apple has an agreement with Starbucks to let people waiting in line for drinks download songs via the coffee chain’s Wi-Fi without charging for the connection). In addition, metropolitan Wi-Fi networks aren’t likely to come to fruition, due to costs as well as stalled negotiations between city governments and Internet service providers (read the latest news). So most consumers probably won’t be connected to the Internet wirelessly “anytime, anywhere” via Wi-Fi. Thus, it reduces the potential reach of a digital marketing campaign, especially when tied to something time sensitive in nature.
Sure, sometimes people can catch a Wi-Fi signal on the go, if they happen to be close to an unsecure network (in some cities many Wi-Fi networks exist close together, making this easier). And the broadband-over-cellular EDGE technology from Cingular/AT&T Wireless (the only U.S. carrier with which the iPhone works) can connect all of Apple’s small Wi-Fi-enabled devices to the Internet. But even in these instances, wireless Web connectivity is still inconsistent and unreliable for most consumers.
Of course, it’s likely that someday Wi-Fi will be as common as electricity or tap water. Indeed, we’ve written about Apple helping to make Wi-Fi a given on handsets (see iPhone And The Upcoming Cell Phone Wi-Fi Revolution). But at present, a marketer ought to be able to integrate an existing (and for now superior) SMS campaign with an email strategy for the future.
Eydie Cubarrubia, Marketing Communications Manager