The web is emerging as a platform, and in many cases this emergence has already begun to take shape. The desktop/laptop and other computing devices are emerging as not only platforms for their own dedicated utility (computing, instant messaging, voice communications) but as platforms for running web based experiences.
Some of the newest and hottest devices feature weak residential/local computing abilities but make up for their shortcoming via place-shifted computing power and abilities delivered via the web.
The iPhone doesn't allow for the installation of 3rd party programs.
The Wii offers little alternative non-gaming programming It's latent power lies not in the unit itself, but in it's web connectivity. For the mass audience, many of whom are casual gamers or at least potential Wii owners, this may be their first truly web connected device residing in their living rooms.
The commonality here is this: the innovative functionality of these offerings comes not from their installed applications but from web based apps.
Orb.com is in excellent example of this capability. Orb will stream your content off your home computer to almost any other connected device. Orb makes my Wii into a media extender. I don't have an iPhone but if the flash formats are compatible, Orb could allow for Slingbox functionality to an iPhone, for free.
With the upcoming release of Adboe AIR, flash "virtual software" will reside on the desktop. A small widget search box can search Flickr, delivering results on top of whatever you had open on your sceen. Widgets and AJAX aren't all about RSS or web connectivity; the next generation of these tools will be powering our lives beyond the sever limitations of the browser.
The lines between desktop/residential and the connected/delivered computer power are blurring. What does this mean for Intel's consumer centric chip market? At a certain point, won't we have enough local/residential computing power and rely on a web connection to deliver additional "virtual" computing power as needed? In an office, wouldn't it be more power friendly and even efficient to run a handful of ultra high-powerful servers delivering virtual machine to connected "dumb" devices at each employee terminal? In plain english, why do I as an employee need my own computer when it will (in a few years time) be far more efficient for me to have a small terminal device that connects to a far more powerful server?
I'm not saying this is something we're going to see today, but I wouldn't be shocked if this became fairly commonplace within 10-15 years time in the workplace, and in other 20-30 years time in our homes.
And as marketers, as this transitional computing begins to take form, where does this place us? If anything, doesn't this tell us we should begin to respect certain areas as "sacred" or "protected" areas where advertising has no place beyond powering the offering itself? Aren't there places consumers don't want to see advertising and shouldn't we have at least some respect for their non-brand oriented lives? There is a time and place for everything, and even in these future hyperconnected worlds of distributed computing, advertising will remain the primary monetization model (be it content integration, smart banners or other formats).
Now is this time to begin to play with these new concepts, to determine how we as marketers will play in this brave new world.