This year, tennis fans around the world are able for the first time to get up-to-date scores, schedules and other information from the U.S. Open using Web-enabled mobile phones and personal digital assistants.
Next year, they might be able to order a hot dog from their seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium here and have it brought to them so they don't miss a key volley between Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport.
IBM, which has been providing the technological support to the U.S. Open for the past nine years, began offering wireless access to scores and other information earlier this year at the French Open and Wimbledon, according to Jon Prial, director of marketing strategy at IBM's Pervasive Computing Division.
But unlike the French Open, where only France Telecom customers were able to access a Wireless Application Protocol site address to check scores and highlights at the Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, tennis buffs from London to Los Angeles are able to check U.S. Open match scores, news and other information using Web-enabled wireless devices such as PalmPilots and Web phones from Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint PCS Group, regardless of who their carrier may be.
Since the U.S. Open started last week, roughly 10,000 visitors have checked out the wireless Web site that IBM is maintaining for the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). And while those are hardly eye-popping numbers, IBM and USTA officials say it's the first step toward leveraging the business potential of wireless access to a major sporting event.
"There's a clear branding play, a visibility play and a chance [for the USTA] to bring in new customers" using wireless devices, Prial said. He and other IBM officials said that wireless e-commerce applications such as food service and merchandiseordering at the U.S. Open and other sporting events "is on the way," though they declined to specify any target dates or events for those rollouts to begin.
"It's exciting to be able to offer wireless access to the news and information from an event this large for the first time to tennis fans around the world," said Pierce O'Neil, chief marketing officer for the USTA.