Thursday, February 16, 2006


Shopping Phone--Instant Reviews at the Moment of Purchase

I like the idea as it makes consumers have relevant information at the moment of purchase.

Toshiba Corp., a Japanese electronics company that makes DVD players, laptops and nuclear power plants, has developed mobile-phone technology that searches for product reviews on up to 100 Web journals, or blogs, in 10 seconds.

Just use the phone's digital camera to snap a photo of the bar code of a product you're thinking about buying.

The technology can decipher if the blog chatter is positive or negative and tallies the count to show if a product is getting rave reviews or being trashed by consumers. That's useful if you're in a store about to buy an item.

Some of the more frequently visited blogs will also show up on the screen.

The bar-code information is sent wirelessly to a Toshiba server, which gathers data on blogs from the Internet and analyzes them, and then sends a reply back to the cell phone.

Toshiba expects to have information on thousands of products covering just about anything you might buy at a store -- from toys to electronic gadgets to food.

Toshiba plans to test the software at Japanese stores next month and hopes to offer it as a service on cell phones before April 2007, although details aren't decided.

Blog searches and bar codes that link to Web pages are already available on personal computers and portable devices, but Toshiba officials say their technology is convenient for shopping because it's for cell phones and carries out real-time blog searches from bar-codes.

The question in my mind is: should Toshiba hold the data or partner with Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and others (perhaps AC Nielsen) and concentrate on what they do best--make the technology (devices and the software). What they need to do is to recognize the dynamic vibrant ecosystem and figure out their specific role in it. Perhaps they may refine their strategy after the tests in the Japanese stores in 2007.

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