Sony has announced plans to establish a new company, Cybergene.com, to commercialize an image-based Internet navigation system called IP3. For users, the system hopes to offer an easier way to navigate the Internet but it is on the information provider side where most of the system's innovation lies.
Yutaka Sato, who has been appointed chief executive officer of Cybergene, demonstrated at a Tokyo press conference how the system might work for users.
From an icon stored on the desktop, the user can double-click to bring up the IP3 browser window, which contains a larger image associated with the icon. In his demonstration, the image was of a Sony personal computer. Right clicking on the image brought up a menu that offered access to a variety of information supplied by the information provider. This can include HTML, Acrobat pages, video, audio, more images or text-based information.
A further item in the menu allowed users to jump to a page where they could purchase the computer, while double-clicking on the image brought up associated pages, such as those for other computers and related peripheral products.
While from the user's point of view a lot of what was shown could be accomplished with existing Web technologies, the system offers information providers and marketers potentially many more rewards.
Information associated with each icon is stored on the user's desktop and the system supports the pushing of new information to replace old files when items are updated, ensuring users always get fresh information and also benefit from the speed with which locally-stored information can be accessed.
In addition, the system allows information providers to more accurately track what users are doing online. As each user has a proprietary IP3 browser stored on their machine, it is possible for different information providers to identify the same users and therefore trade information about preferences for a more focused marketing campaign. This extends to an IP3 mail service, which allows companies to push specific information to users' desktops.
IP3 was developed by Tokyo-based start-up Visionarts. For its part Sony has negotiated exclusive rights for the system and will use it internally and also promote the system to other information providers and companies that want to reach Internet users. It hopes to make money from IP3 largely through sub-licensing of the system.
An IP3 browser will be offered free of charge to users from late June and the system should start operating at around the same time.