ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells

The Effect of the Third Screen on Business Applications

By Michael Marchioni


Dating as far back as 1997, we have heard about the cell phones potential future as the third screen after television and computer screens. The third screen has been billed as the new medium for streaming video. Television delivered anywhere, anytime. The third screen is also a marketers Nirvana. Think about it. The potential for mobile marketing is endless. Branded games, live news updates, and instant interaction with customers via a press to talk button are just a few examples that come to mind. These new offerings will populate what has typically been a screen devoid of anything more than a calendar and new call or message notification information.

What about the potential for new business applications via the third screen? Is there a killer app out there waiting to make use of this untouched real estate to provide additional value to businesses? The negative response I often hear is that a mobile phone screen is not large enough to support Web browsing or integration with business applications normally accessed from a PC. Or, Internet access from my mobile service provider is too slow. Another common complaint is, I dont type with my thumbs.

True on all counts, but heres the catch: Why do we have to think in terms of using the mobile phone only to accomplish the same tasks we currently do from a PC? Consider the technology on the horizon sure to enhance the one device that most every business already depends on the telephone. According to a recent report published by TEQConsult in 2005 the percentage of IP telephones sold eclipsed TDM telephones for the first time. Additionally, research from CTIA suggests that about 75 percent of Americans aged 15 and over own a cell phone. IP telephones, like cell phones, will increasingly contain a powerful OS like Windows Mobile or Windows CE. In essence, the telephone has or will become a small, yet very powerful computer. This includes wired IP telephones, WiFi telephones, and cell phones. Add dual mode handsets into the mix and you have the potential for a single device capable of enabling business voice conversation and corporate systems access from anywhere, in or out of the office.

So, in the near future, many of us will have these IP, WiFi, or dual mode telephones that are also mini PCs capable of processing voice, video, and data. So what? What is the real advantage to a business?

That question brings us back to the concept of the third screen. Traditionally, as described above, the third screen implied a new medium for streaming video. This definition, however, is very one dimensional. Television, the first screen, was a one dimensional device. As we all know, its singular function was and is to receive broadcast television signals. The PC, the second screen, made it possible to use the screen to do many more things than simply watch television. Just as the PC expanded the possibilities and capabilities of the screen in ways that very few people envisioned when the technology was new Internet access, e-mail, and propagation of client/server networks so shall the third screen. But I will argue that the third screen is not limited to the cell phone. The third screen is present on any smart phone. That is, an IP, WiFi, or mobile telephone equipped with an operating system such as Windows Mobile or CE.

What will the killer business apps of the third screen look like? The reality is nobody knows. That is, nobody knows with any certainty. But, if history is any indicator, the killer apps of the third screen will be very different from the killer apps of the second screen, just as the killer apps of the second screen were radically different from the first screen. The smart phone is not a replacement for the PC, it is a new type of device that shares commonalities with the PC, but it is not a PC. Just as the PC, in most instances, is not a practical replacement for the telephone. While both devices types the PC and the smart phone are capable of sending and receiving voice, video, and data, they are two very different device types of with very different uses: a mobile device versus a fixed device, a very small screen versus a full size screen, a dial pad versus a keyboard and mouse. Rather than dwelling on these differences as limitations, when we consider combining emerging technologies such as SIP, RFID, IPV6, peer to peer communications, voice recognition, WLAN/cellular handoff, unified communications, and presence in a smart phone device, the potential to create business specific applications is limitless. The key to the killer apps of the future is that the power of the content accessed through the third screen lies in the media itself the ability to do what once was only possible from a fixed location from anywhere, at any time, from any device. That is the true killer app. IT

Michael Marchioni is director of product marketing at Iwatsu Voice Networks (news - alerts). For more information, please visit the company online at

If you are interested in purchasing reprints of this article (in either print or PDF format), please visit Reprint Management Services online at or contact a representative via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 800-290-5460.

Today @ TMC
Upcoming Events
ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas