Techknow: The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Web Alley

Techknow: The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Web Alley - Iceland recently announced with a technoflourish that it was going to rebrand all its stores. Soon, when you go to pick up a pack of GM-free fish fingers, instead of seeing p

by RHYMER RIGBY

Iceland recently announced with a technoflourish that it was going to rebrand all its stores. Soon, when you go to pick up a pack of GM-free fish fingers, instead of seeing plain old Iceland, you'll be greeted by Iceland.co.uk, lovingly rendered in red plastic. But should it bother? For just as the frozen food giant slaps on a cyber-suffix, other more established e-players such as gameplay.com (now just plain gameplay) are dumping the dot. Among the net-cognoscenti, it would appear that last year's must-have corporate accessory is now as naff as platform trainers. And why's this? Well, firstly, it's not much fun having something everyone else has. Secondly, what with WAP, interactive TV and the innumerable other platforms available, the dot could start to look a little parochial. And thirdly, jittery markets have made many realise that, actually, bricks and mortar can be pretty cool too. Perhaps Iceland should call off the sign-painters.

While on the subject of different platforms, the latest hot-to-the-point-of-being-really-rather-dull topic is 'what will be the next e-commerce?' Those who have nailed their colours to the WAP mast are touting the chunky phone, while others are working themselves into a lather over m-commerce - 'm' meaning mobile, multi-platform, or any meaningless multitude of things. Now, while it's undeniable that tiny portable gadgets are (a) really cool and sexy and (b) make you feel like the future's here NOW!, one suspects the next big thing could be an altogether less glam medium: interactive TV. Open, Sky Digital's Shopping Channel (which launched last October), already sells more than any single UK web site. It takes more than pounds 1 million a week, and Carphone Warehouse, which sells through the site, says its sales expectations have been exceeded by 400%. Technophile crystal-ball gazers should take note: satellite subscribers may not be as aspirational as WAP customers, but there are a lot more of them.

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