dial tone
n. A metaphor for any service that provides easy, universal access to some other product or service using a variety of devices and regardless of location.

Example Citation:
"This will lead to the 'Internet dial-tone', in which connection to the Net from all manner of devices will be as automatic and simple as getting a dial-tone connection to the telephone network when we lift up a phone handset."
—Jim Higgins, "Web agents work while you live life," The Press, November 17, 1998

Notes:
As the citation above shows, this metaphor is based on the humble telephone dial tone, a service that provides easy and near-universal access to the phone system, and that works with a wide variety of devices (telephones, modems, security systems, and so on).

Another "dial tone" example that hasn't quite made it out to the mainstream media, but that's making the rounds of e-book and e-publishing circles is "content dial tone":


"The amount of Internet content will grow 'tenfold' over next 3 years, IBM Vp-Global Media Mktg. Steven Canepa said, and much of growth will be in streaming audio and video. He said content would be available to 'pervasive devices,' starting with Palm units and Web-enabled phones, and extending eventually into even more exotic devices. Successful services will provide 'content dial tone, Canepa said, offering 'whatever you want, where you want it, and using the device you want to use.'"
—Communications Daily, April 13, 2000

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