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The Future Direction of Wireless Applications

16 November 2000 18:36
By Tornado Staff

Ask anyone with a mobile phone how many SMS messages they’ve sent in the last week, and unless they are under the age of 20, the answer will likely be somewhere close to zero.

Remember when SMS was going to be the next “killer” application? For all the money network operators have pumped into acquiring third-generation licenses many wonder when the wireless revolution is ever going to happen and when it does, will the unprecedented prices paid for UMTS licenses ever be recovered?

Frustrating as it may be for investors, the answers to these questions are still not clear. Despite the current lack of clarity in the market, individuals with an intimate knowledge of the wireless dilemma made a valiant effort at explaining today at the Tornado London Power Day how some handheld devices are leading the world closer to the wireless promised land.

Speed to market with high-level, content-driven products may be the only saving grace for the network operators to start recovering their losses.

“SMS is already Stone Age - remember this acronym, SIP, it stands for Session Initiation Protocol,” stressed Johann Weber, director of strategic investment for Intel Capital EMEA. SIP will enable users to have one address for e-mail, instant messaging and file transfer - basically all a person’s messaging needs.

That doesn’t mean wireless companies can’t take away some valuable information from the SMS experiment. “You can never tailor wireless applications too much,” said David Hooper, of Microsoft. “There was one day in Britain recently when 9 million SMS messages were sent - it was the day of the A-Level examinations and students were sharing their results with each other,” Hooper said. “This is telling us something and we need to listen.”

The concerns of students and civilians are obviously not the same as the concerns of the business person. The level of security is one major difference. This concern needs to be addressed thoroughly before any type of messaging from sources like a corporate intranet will take hold, according to Hooper.

Ideally, applications will be created to serve a single person’s personal AND business needs, and companies are already hard at work on such devices. Microsoft is continuing to improve on the Pocket PC and also working on a phone that will act more or less like a Pocket PC.

But why spend all the time and energy creating new wireless products when it is the network operators who control the highway on which the wireless customers will be driving?

According to Hooper, “It is in the best interest of the operators to come to market with rich, high-value applications. They need applications that are worthy of charging money for and consequently they will come to people like us to provide them with these kinds of products.”

But even when the technology comes together, it seems there will still be more testing dilemmas. In the end, the real questions are: “Who’s the customer and who owns the customer,” noted Jan Gapinski, CEO of Speed Ventures.


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