If you want to see where your kids will be spending their time in the future, take a look at Gemini Mobileâ€™s platform that lets carriers offer their subscribers a social networking community on their phones. Essentially, the service is a mobile community â€“ a MySpace on the go, but for more virtual reality. The platform is called eXplo, and it powers SoftBank Mobileâ€™s S! Town. S! Town is pretty neat. A subscriber can have an avatar that walks around this virtual world. In the demo I was given, Michael Tao, Gemini Mobileâ€™s CTO, had a black anime as his avatar. His avatar strolled through S!Townâ€™s virtual town center, which was quite deserted, given that it was 4 am in the morning in Japan, where this service is available. At first, it seemed pretty silly and useless to be walking around this deserted town. But then Michael bumped into several females (or at least one might think they were female because their avatars were female). Michael tried to befriend them, while at the same time clicking onto a user profile to find out more about this person. All members have profiles that can be made public to the community. All community members can roam around this virtual town and meet other members. Watching this interaction was a bit frightening, especially when Michael could â€“ with just a click of a button -- find out more about the person whom he was interacting with. When I was a little girl, I played tea with some dolls around a mini table. My future little girl will likely be playing tea on her mobile phone with (hopefully) other little girls. So, what's the business model? Consumers don't pay for the service. Rather they can buy content in the town. There are also advertisements on billboards in the virtual town. In 2007, the service is expected to be deployed with U.S. and European carriers.
Tumri wants to help retailers spread their products across a number of Web sites. Essentially, it's a bit like Google's Adsense, whereby any publisher can be the distributor of Google's ads. It's like Edgeio's model of letting publishers be distributors of Edgeio's classified lists. Tumri is a smart idea if it can help retailers find their target market for a specific ad across the fragmented Web. Getting a specific product, say carbon fiber bicycles, distributed across the right sites with the target audience is a tall order. Additionally, Google's advertising Adword clients can create ads for specific products as well and be distributed across Google's Adsense network. After all, merchants are advertisers. Going after the merchant market is essentially the same as going for the advertising market. Look what happened to eBay's merchants. They too are Google advertisers. That said, I like the idea. Additinoally, the cost for merchant is based on performance. To that end, they'll only pay per click. Tumri will probably have to deal with clcik-fraud issues, but for starters, it's a fair way to go for merchants., unless they push for a click-per-action or click-per-purchase model. The trick for Tumri (and Edgeio) is to increase the relevance on the ads for each site. I plan on becoming a Tumri distributor. I'll let you know what I think of the experience over time.