Freedom to Roam - Page 4

Nov 15, 2000

- Staff


Contrary to some reports, WAP is not dead, Gold insists, but "in distress." That's because its key component, Wireless Markup Language (WML), is an interim technology suitable for underpowered, "memory-poor" devices that will soon be replaced by devices with greater processing power and more memory. Within the next couple of years, he writes, microbrowsers such as Microsoft Mobile Explorer and Opera, with full HTML and JavaScript compatibility, will come online.

Wireless technologies are just another platform that IT needs to provide tools and applications for, says Sidon, who points out that many executives are waiting for PalmOS, Windows CE, or Symbian to establish itself as the dominant platform. Meanwhile, Gold predicts that companion devices will contain multiple embedded operating systems on various chips from a growing list of companion and appliance manufacturers.

From a business perspective, Sidon says, companies are looking for "always-on" connectivity at decent prices, something that cell phone users take for granted and are beginning to realize that they need for data as well. "This is especially true in Europe where a lot more people cross countries for their work than in the U.S. or Japan," says Sidon, who has worked in both the United States and Europe and spent more than seven years in Asia. He points out that the early successes in the United States and Japan have been because of the availability of data networks, such as iMode and Blackberry.

Nevertheless, says Auld, as global markets cause standards to converge, the United States and Europe will come more into line with one another. "The most-used third-generation standards will be W-CDMA wide area and TD-CDMA for local area," says Auld, pointing out that more than half the cellular phones in the world operate according to the AMPS standard, which since 1988 has been maintained and developed by the Telecommunications Industry Association. He also notes that people tend to mutter about BlueTooth for the local area while ignoring other decent products such as ONEcom Windcast.

Don't forget that infrastructure issues are complicated by on-the-ground reality, Auld advises. He ticks off the issues for one of his company's clients, a foundry: "Because of the fire risk, the buildings were fabricated in metal, which is rather impervious to radio waves. The air was full of graphite, so even the screens and keyboards needed constant cleaning. Then there was the constant electrical noise from the melting furnaces and the welding apparatus." Heavy industries, he says, will have to manage much more than problems of bandwidth, limited portable power supply, and cost.

Toward the Virtual Company

In the medium term, a great shakeout is likely to happen in the area of software development, where the seeds planted by venture capitalists and their partners will begin to bear fruit, and losers will retreat.

In fact, that's already happening. Many companies are taking the intermediate step of moving applications online. And for some providers, especially in the healthcare and consumer finance areas, wireless access already makes good sense. Some brokerages allow consumers to make wireless trades. Hospitals are leveraging the power of wireless for bedside uses, allowing doctors to chart each patient's progress as they make their rounds. Bilotti describes how one of his company's clients, a healt

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