Diverse devices to drive net's future

The much-touted convergence of internet devices is little more than a futuristic myth, argues DoubleClick founder and CEO Kevin O'Connor.

In fact, O'Connor predicted in his Internet 2000 keynote address yesterday morning that quite the opposite trend will take place in the world of web-enablement; that is, divergence.

O'Connor said there was no good way of predicting which internet devices would become more popular or useful than others in the coming years of internet.

For the foreseeable future, web users will continue to access the internet from wireless devices, desktop PCs, notebooks, "a bit of television", cars and even kitchen appliances, he said.

"(Digital convergence) is a horrible idea," he mused.

In support of his argument against a single-device e-economy, O'Connor estimated that earthbound internet access had a seven-year lead over its wireless counterpart.

"I would put wireless internet back to where the (modem-accessed) internet was in 1993," he said, referring to the uncertainty and anarchy of conventional internet that existed early last decade.

"There's no way of knowing what is the killer (wireless) app," he added.

Nevertheless, O'Connor sees a big future ahead for wireless internet. He said wireless will see a significant shift towards consumer empowerment and, therefore, product customisation.

"Advertising will be customised," he added.

O'Connor defended his company's controversial internet-tracking methods. As he admitted, DoubleClick supplies web advertisers with demographic information based on cookies sent to site visitors' PCs.

Personal data such as user names and addresses could be supplied to online advertisers without a user's active consent or payment, he said.

However, DoubleClick offers an "opt-out" approach to internet user privacy, whereby web users are able to request that their personal information not be used for data-gathering marketing exercises, he explained.

"If you provide customers with value and choice . . . they become less concerned about privacy issues," he said.

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