Monday, December 14, 2009

Caveat emptor: Coming to an iPhone near you...

There was a time when if you scratched your nose at the wrong moment at a public auction you could find yourself the proud owner of a vast mahogany breakfront bookcase or a set of 12 Chippendale dining chairs that you didn't want, or a £500,000 Old Master painting you couldn't afford. At least that's what the standard auction myth would have you believe.

But while auctioneers are too experienced to mistake your twitching or your scratching as serious bidding, it does seem we are now poised to enter a whole new dimension where bidding at auction is concerned. In the same way that the internet made it possible to view and buy art without having to walk past the obligatory Courtauld-educated Cerberus-like intern posted at the door of every swanky art gallery, so now you can bid at auction while sitting in a traffic jam. All thanks to a new iPhone app made available by Invaluable Live!

I won't bang on about this (you can check out this versatile little tool on Invaluable's website here). Suffice to say that I used to dream about a service like this back in 2002 before the technology was available.

This sort of application ought to come with a health warning. It's already illegal to use a cellphone while driving. Using an iPhone while driving and bidding at auction at the same time takes the concept of risk to a whole new level, not only in terms of what you might accidentally crash into while bidding, but what you might accidentally buy while driving.

"Honey, I'm afraid a terrible thing happened on the way home."

"Oh my God. What did you hit?"

"Nothing. I bought a Jack Vettriano by accident."

"That's it. I'm out of here and I'm taking the kids...."