February 08, 2001

In the next five years, 40% of the global market for Internet services will be attributable to multi-access services, the delivery of content, and services to multiple devices over multiple networks. This prediction from Ovum, the analyst and consulting company, highlights a major new phenomenon which will change the face of the IT, telecoms and new media industries. This will create lucrative markets for new products and services, but companies wanting to capitalise on these opportunities must radically alter their business practices.

"This evolution of the Internet will stimulate the convergence of applications and services, and allow them to reach well beyond their usual domains," says Neil Ward-Dutton, research director at Ovum. "The introduction of interactive digital TV services, media streaming and the announcements of wireless strategies from IBM, Microsoft, Sun, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle are just some examples of the early moves that are being made towards making Internet services available any time, anywhere. PDAs, Mobile phones, TVs and even cars will be able to access digital content and services by 2005."

Media and technology companies from Microsoft to Sony and AOL Time Warner to Vodafone already have their strategies to stimulate the availability of these services. "Trillion-dollar market opportunities mean that the stakes are high," says Ward-Dutton. "Everyone wants their piece of the action, but it will not be easy to create, shape, manage, and deliver content and services. Multi-channel access introduces numerous challenges for network operators and communications vendors."

"The main obstacles media and technology companies will face in this arena will be cultural and market issues rather than technological ones," continues Ward-Dutton. "Any powerful company wishing to venture into this market will not be able to rely on its strength in its existing supply chain. To widen the uptake of digital services through this medium, providers will be coming across users who have never used the Web or even a PC."

Seeking to own the customer was always the primary goal for online service providers, however, new business rules dictate that the ability to understand and share the customer will be of intrinsic importance when it comes to making profit. The delivery of multi-access services necessitates a change in these relations and market contenders must note that the value of customer information increases the more it is shared with other parties.

Ovum predicts that cross industry collaboration will be the key to success here. " No single organisation will have the ability to deliver exclusively," says Ward-Dutton. " Profitable ventures will be structured on partnerships forged between providers willing to share information they previously held dear."

For more information at http://www.ovum.com

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