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>Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2000 21:48:41 -0400
>From: Linda
>Organization: @Home Network
>X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.7 [en]C-AtHome0404 (Win98; U)
>X-Accept-Language: en
>To: FoRK
>Subject: [Inter@ctive Week] WAP! Or thud
>WAP! Or thud
>By Louis Trager, Inter@ctive Week
>June 1, 2000 9:09 AM ET
>A crucial buzzword du jour is m-commerce. Behind the buzz lurks a
>cautionary tale about technology bandwagons. The “m” stands for mobile,
>as in, everybody running around doing business with portable electronic
>devices – all the time. Or at least all the time they’re not sitting in
>front of desktops, not doing e-nough of the Last Big Thing to save many
>e-commerce entrants.
>Barry Parr frets about m-commerce. Just to be clear – Parr, consumer
>e-commerce research director at International Data Corp., does believe
>the notion has big potential. Travelers and locals alike may someday yearn
>to weave the Web throughout their entire on-the-go lives, seeking
>on local eateries, entertainment – not to mention instant updates on traffic,
>weather, stocks, soap operas, gambling events and horoscopes. It’s not a
>leap to using mobile data to window-shop and complete transactions through the
>But, Parr is flashing a few m-commerce warnings. Not yet, at least not
>here – and not with phones. Be careful, he says, with the claims:
>- Counts and projections of wireless Internet users can be misleading.
>Most are using cell phones to connect laptops to the Net, a process far
>from data access using the phone directly.
>- Projections of Web-enabled phones may mean less than meets the eye. IDC
>93 million U.S. subscribers with Wireless Application Protocol capability
>by 2003. But not all WAP phones will have active WAP owners.
>- “Everybody in Europe does it.” No, they don’t, actually. Lots of
>Europeans –
>Finns, especially – are knee-deep into chat, e-mail and information access
>via short messaging services. But that’s not the same as downloading
>Web pages
>using WAP.
>- “They love it in Japan.” That’s because computer access to the Net has
>been limited. Let’s see what happens now that computer access is becoming
>affordable and Japan’s wireless industry is running up against constraints
>proprietary and dated technologies, high rates and extreme customer churn.
>So much for the affirmative case for phone-based m-commerce soon,
>according to Parr.
>Wait, he’s not done.
>There’s nothing wrong with mobile phones for conducting commerce that
>big, bulky displays and keypads might not cure. And there’s nothing
>wrong with WAP
>as a supporting technology that download speeds much faster than the current
>19.2 kilobits per second wouldn’t solve. And remember: Not only your Web
>page design but your entire site’s organization has to be adapted for the
>What do consumers want? IDC asked mobile-phone users how interested they
>were in Net access using their phones. Just 7 percent said they
>were uninterested.
>Unfortunately, 75 percent said they were very uninterested. It’s a classic
>case of top-down push marketing, Parr says, a coincidence of vendor need
>- wireless providers trying to scramble up the value chain in order to
>per-subscriber revenue, cover high costs and slow churn – with technology
>prowess –
>because they can. Service providers want Internet-style growth without the
>platforms and commodity pricing that fueled it.
>It’s all so reminiscent of bygone fads like interactive TV and
>computing, Parr says. “Communications infrastructure and connectivity –
>that is
>such a huge opportunity and an honorable business. They [telcos] need to stop
>trying to get into show business.”
>Companies in some businesses – handling personal information management,
>communications, time-critical stock alerts and news bulletins, Yellow
>Pages or
>directions – should move fast on WAP, Parr says. Others are well-advised
>to hold
>off and see how protocols shake out for the personal digital
>assistant-like devices
>he expects to emerge as the killer hardware.
>Mobile communication is indeed a wireless marvel, and the commerce it
>supports may well
>become one also. Meanwhile, though, the m-commerce boom demonstrates that
>the Next Big Thing happens to be, it’s rarely truly wireless – there’s
>almost always
>some seller pulling the strings.

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