When you travel as much as I do, one of the things you end up craving in consistency, continuity… and coffee. Being able to consolidate and converge all my worldly goods into a suitcase is nothing short of an art form, and what is true of my real-life personal possessions is no less true in my virtual world.

Take communication devices. Having to swap SIM Cards between Vodafone in UK and AT&T in US and redirect one provider’s number to the next (in order to ensure continuation of receiving calls from anywhere, whilst receiving the best contract rate within the host continent), is not too painful, but does beg the question on a single device will not just pick up a cross-carrier signal but automatically switch to that contract to obtain the best rates when you hit their turf. Or what about giving you the option to switch between personal and business calls/messages/mails/rates, even numbers from within the handset? (Yes I have time-stamped this blog, and will accept concept royalties from mobile developers!)

What I am talking about is a commercial proposition akin to cloud computing. Apple’s Mobile Me (and Microsoft’s Mesh) is just yet another incarceration of the cloud computing concept which allows any device to connect to a server out-there which becomes the master point for all your data, and turns all your connected devices (laptop, mobile, etc) into a slave device to keep them continually synched – change calendar on one device, automatically updates the other, for example. Data follows me and is continually live and frees me to do whatever I want, wherever I want as well as allowing a back-up and retrieval facility anywhere in the world of all my data and/or media should I be unfortunate to lose any device.

Being practically around the corner from Apple in California when the iPhone 3G landed, (so I missed out on upgrading mine from UK!), I have been acutely aware of all the discussions around the new breed of communication devices and how we will remain continually connected as we move headlong into a converging Web 3.0 world. I for one would be lost without instant internet access to check email or update Facebook or go search for information when prompted by a question forming in my head from some external stimuli. Seems am not alone as a young woman stepped up to me in a bar in San Francisco to ask if she may use my iPhone to search Google to settle a dispute between her and her friend. We seem to becoming reliant on instant access to our information and communication platforms and very soon our data and media.

Shifting content from the home to the cloud has distinct advantages, but does comes at the cost of releasing ALL my private information, including any bootleg copies of software and music/film media no doubt, to be stored by some third-party and giving them access to do all sorts of cross-checking – whether that be for a good hand-slapping or for marketing or security reasons. It is another step to privacy becoming further eroded with potential serious consequences. At what price does convenience play over anonymity I wonder?

Considering the opening launch of the new iPhone, where shop terminals problems grinding to a halt causing consumers not being able to upgrade iPhones seamlessly, leaving those early adopters who had waited all night literally out in the cold with neither their old nor new iPhone working, we are all aware of the challenges surrounding anything where technology is concerned, let alone convergence.

Cross-channel communication and linking off and online advertising for a continued and intelligent brand experience across all media is something that is indeed my passion. Beyond digitising every billboard and newspaper (which as an old print graphic designer I secretly hope never happens incidentally), linking what is considered traditional media with digital media is something that should ensure a more cost-effective commercialisation of media from an advertisers perspective. Especially if linked to a consumer life cycle and then tracking and plotting actual user behaviour across a media mix, as they move from brand to response to purchase to be able to effectively adapt a targeted message.

iTunes Point-of-Sale card So as I take 5 minutes away from getting my thoughts around all this cross-channel consolidation, even from pondering why Apple has not jumped into web portals and advertising like Microsoft has (maybe eWorld just hurt them bad!), walking away from my laptop to grab a coffee, it was no surprise to find when I least expected it, that inspiration happens and a very real example of what I am talking about is staring me in the face. There in a Starbucks in San Francisco, I saw the most perfect illustration of cross-media advertising from awareness to purchase I have seen.

In the background, the ambient music is subtly playing as I wait in line to order my Frappuccino. My interest is piqued, even if on a very low-level process of awareness. By the time I get to order my drink I am now more acutely aware of the music as it moves from background to foreground in my mind. I look down at the credit card terminal and notice not a CD of said music, but a point-of-sale card that resembles a CD sleeve, but is in actual fact an iTunes activation card with a passcode on the back. I hand to the waitress and it’s added to my bill which I pay with my card. Waiting for my drink to be made, I take my iPhone and logon via wi-fi in the shop to the iTunes store, where I type in my passcode and automatically starts downloading the music I was just listening to my iPhone. I am handed my drink, put in my headphones as I strolled back to the office, the same music was echoing through my head. Awareness to response to purchase (and now proclamation) from print advertising to digital consumption within the space of time it takes to make a cup of coffee. Pure genius! Quite how it is being tracked I can imagine, but anyone at Apple marketing care to share results with me?

iTunes Point-of-Sale credit card I walk back into my San Fran office, and before I have finished my drink, and without a word between us, a colleague passes me a credit card sized piece of print that he had picked up earlier in Starbuck’s with today’s free download on iTunes (complete with passcode) that he thought I might like… Surely this is the spreading gospel of convergence in action.

I no longer feel the need to convert anyone, as it seems I am not the only victim of the message on the successes of cross-channel communication, and I am sure I am not the only one who has dipped his hand in his pocket when the offering plate for iTunes comes around. Hats off to the fellows behind all this – you should be up for an award! Next stop – movie downloads over WiMax, yeah?

Trying to check it out online, and judging from this article, seems as if this is been kicking around a while… Is this a US only thing I wonder?

In reflection the only thing I am surprised was the waitress in Starbucks did not reiterate my order, “a grande skinny Frappuccino – is that single, or album, sir?”