There's an important trend that we're all experiencing, but has not yet made the radars of most marketers. I call it 'Browser Blur.'
Browser Blur is the blurring of the lines between online and offline, between the web and the desktop (and, yes, I made it up).
From the Browser to the Desktop
On one hand, applications that pull content from the web are no longer sentenced to live inside the browser. Those prison walls are have been broken down. The best example of this is iTunes. Apple may not have "ads," but they certainly market plenty in the iTunes Store. I'd be willing to bet that a good number of people reading this are accessing Twitter from their the desktop without launching a browser via Tweetdeck, Twhirl or Seesmic.
Take a look through Dashboard Widgets on Apple's website. Brands from Virgin Atlantic to Petsmart to MSNBC have all created small branded applications that stream content to your computer without ever launching a browser. Microsoft has Gadgets (basically Widgets for the PC) in Vista and has hundreds of them available for download on their website.
This is an incredibly powerful tool for marketers because users choose to download these to their computers. It means they must be incredibly relevant to your target audience.
Adobe AIR is a key technology that is a catalyst for this trend. AIR is "a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIAs." RIA is geek-speak for Rich Internet Applications—basically software interfaces that provide richer levels of interactivity for a better user experience. In a nutshell, it enables cool Flash apps sans browser.
From the Desktop to the Browser The other side of this story is that software that has traditionally lived on the desktop is shifting online. Salesforce.com has been the champion of the "software as a service" movement with their hosted, online CRM tools. There's potential for a seismic shift in the way all software is delivered. Google Docs, Zoho and Adobe Buzzword are fantastic tools.Users now have a choice: purchase Microsoft Office or use an online service like Buzzword for free. All you have to do is check the box and give permission for Writely to present you with targeted advertising. Imagine the potential of targeted ads being served up to business customer based on keywords in a document they are writing as they type? You can be sure the folks at Google have. So, there you have it. Sorry marketers. Didn't mean to heap yet another emerging media trend to get up to speed on onto your plate. If it makes things easier, file this one under "Web 2.0 Stuff." It's all a blur, anyhow.