Businesses Maintain Wireless Strategies

M-commerce may be little more than a pipe dream for now, but a report by The Intermarket Group found that having a mobile wireless strategy is emerging as an essential component for most e-business plans.

The “Mobile Wireless Internet Briefing” reports that the importance of developing a mobile wireless strategy is driven in part by the increasing share of the Internet population that will be comprised of mobile wireless users. By 2005, more than one-third of Internet users will have access through wireless handset devices and 59 percent are expected to use non-PC devices, including handsets, PDAs and various types of Internet-enabled appliances — both wired and wireless.

Mobile wireless Internet users are expected to expand 18-fold during the next four years, from less than 40 million worldwide at the beginning of 2001 to almost 730 million in 2005. The fastest growth will occur in Latin America, where the small base of existing users should expand more than 500-fold. The number of users in North America will expand almost 50-fold during the same period and the Asia-Pacific region roughly 12-fold. Approximately 80 percent of today’s mobile wireless Internet users are from the Asia-Pacific region, due in large part to the success of NTT DoCoMo, which has grown from zero to more than 26 million users since its launch in February 1999.

The necessity of a mobile wireless strategy is also driven by the need to enable customers to conduct their business anywhere, anytime and through whatever means are most convenient for them, the report found. The biggest opportunities, however, are not likely to be found in the sales of goods or services, but rather in adding value to existing business processes. Wireless devices and applications can simply be used to maintain closer communication with customers through automated alerts and personalized news, or by providing access to customer information through a variety of platforms — both voice- and data-centric — instead of just the desktop PC.

During the last 12 to 18 months, many of the leading online players have launched a wide variety of features and services which specifically target mobile wireless users. A few examples of these companies include: America Online, Yahoo, Amazon.com, eBay, E*Trade Group and Expedia.

According to a survey of more than 550 software developers by Evans Data Corp., companies are expanding their investment in wireless application development. The worldwide survey of developers who spend all or part of their time working on wireless applications, shows that developers are planning to devote more time to wireless applications in the next 18 months, as they continue to adopt recently introduced wireless data technologies. Twenty percent of developers surveyed expect to devote the greatest portion of their time to wireless development in the next 18 months.

The Evans Data “Summer 2001 Wireless Developer Survey” also found a significant increase of interest in new wireless technologies, with more than two-thirds of respondents already using or planning to evaluate Bluetooth [definition]. A significant number of developers are also moving toward the 802.11b [definition] IEEE wireless LAN standard, according to the respondents.

“Even though the public has adopted wireless data devices more slowly than expected, the wireless Internet continues to grow,” said Jay Dixit, Evans Data wireless analyst. “Even though sales have slowed down, wireless developers have not. The results of the most recent wireless developers survey show that application development in this field continues to accelerate. As new technologies are adopted and tools for wireless development become better, developers invest more and more time working on wireless applications.”

Other findings from the Evans Data survey include:

  • E-mail is the most prevalent application, targeted by 50 percent of developers, followed by instant messaging, consumer e-commerce and location-based services
  • 57 percent are developing applications for PDAs, and a roughly equal group is targeting mobile phones; 37.8 percent are also targeting notebook computers operating wirelessly
  • 18.8 percent of respondents are currently working with the 802.11b standard and another 41 percent are evaluating or expect to evaluate it in the future
  • Almost 45 percent of developers already working on wireless applications expect to occupy between 25 percent and 100 percent of their time in the next 18 months on wireless development
  • 60 percent plan wireless application deployment in the next six months, with half deploying today.

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