Many products for sale can really only be understood via direct manipulation. This is especially true for computer hardware and software. Consider for example the problem of selling a Tablet PC. Pictures of the device and screenshots of its display and lengthy descriptions of its capabilities can enable some comprehension of its abilities, but most people don't really "get" its uniqueness until they play with it for awhile. I myself experience this regularly, as people see me using my Tablet PC on the bus and have no end of questions, which interrogation inevitably ends with the question "Can I try it?".
The best way to sell this type of product, then, would be to put one in the hands of every man, woman, and child on the planet. For most hardware this would be prohibitively expensive. The next best thing might be a software simulation of the device (or, in the case of an application or operating system, the full application itself or a somehow-crippled version of it). CDs of software can effectively be put in the hands of everyone on the planet (as various direct mail and cereal box campaigns have made evident), but such software must still be installed on a computer, with the concomitant problems of compatibility with the host operating system and software. Not to mention the delay in satisfaction that is part and parcel of all this: if I give a CD-based demo of my fancy new application to someone I meet on the bus, they can't use it until they get home, remember to pull the CD out of their bag, sit through the installation routine, and then finally launch the demo. This is a lot of work to go through just to experience some advertising!
Marrying the immediate experience of receiving a brochure which then can be perused with the interactivity of a software-based demo would be ideal. An application could be "compiled" to circuitry that is printed onto cardboard or some other substrate. This app-in-hardware could then be married to a display and then the two combined to form an Interactive Brochure - what appears to be a (perhaps rather stiff) piece of paper but is actually a functional computer program that does not require installation or even a host computer and which can be produced cheaply enough that "carpet-bombing" the world is eminently affordable.
Given the work currently being done worldwide to develop cheap circuit printers and cheap displays, Interactive Brochures could be created sufficiently cheaply to make their cost negligible, akin to that required to print static brochures today.
The flexible displays being developed by various parties today would obviously make an Interactive Brochure more usable, as they would enable a Brochure to be folded and otherwise better withstand the rigors of being passed out on the street, sent through the mail, being stuffed into pockets and purses, and so forth.
The types of programs for which an Interactive Brochure would be useful are not limited; for example, beyond the software demos and hardware simulations mentioned above, a clothing manufacturer could publish interactive catalogs, or a movie studio could publish trailers for its upcoming movies.
Until such time as displays are as cheap as required for Interactive Brochures, the following scheme could be followed:
This idea is obviously dependent on the availability of printers that can print circuitry, and of cheap displays, but both of these technologies are the subject of much research around the world and are near to commercialization.