Wireless to 'compel' IS managers

Wireless Internet applications are poised to become a compelling part of IS managers' operations as the technology emerges from the "trough of disillusionment" it has fallen into, according to Geoff Johnson, research director for Gartner Inc.'s Asia-Pacific Research Center in Brisbane.

Gartner surveys show that network managers spend one-third of their budgets on remote access and wireless solutions, Johnson said in his speech at the Gartner Summit here Thursday. And with mobile phone use continuing to grow rapidly, and as phones, networks and applications become more sophisticated, wireless is an area that chief information officers (CIOs) cannot afford to ignore, he added.

"This is not about the technology, it is about mindset," he said. "Forget about technology -- think about mobility. Think 'If I have mobility, what can I do with it?'. We are talking about the intersection of two important technologies -- the Internet and mobile phones."

Mobile devices will evolve from being pay phones in the pocket to personal links to the online world, according to Johnson. Already, I-mode wireless data service users in Japan spend more time looking at their phones than they do talking on them.

"This is becoming a serious market with returns on investment," said Johnson.

According to Johnson, there will be 1 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide by the end of 2003, almost one-sixth of the world's population. Over 80 percent of those devices will have wireless Web capability by that time, and by 2005, all mobile devices will contain at least one form of integrated wireless connectivity. In Asia, four times as many people will access the Web via mobile phones as via PCs, Johnson said.

The poor perception of wireless Web now is the result of the disappointment surrounding WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), plus significant delays in delivering GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) services and Bluetooth-enabled devices. WAP services have generally been seen as slow because of the time it takes to dial up to the Internet from a mobile phone.

GPRS is an overlay to GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) which provides always-on service and higher transmission speeds by using a packet-switched model rather than GSM's circuit-switched model.

"GPRS has been delayed 12 months, but we expect it to be available in the fourth quarter of this year and to reach mass acceptance by mid-2002," Johnson said.

A further boost will occur when XML (Extensible Markup Language) integrates competing standards of I-mode, WAP and Compact HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), according to Johnson.

XML, along with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will be a key wireless Web technology over the next two years. Further out, speech recognition, smart cards, WAP security, Bluetooth and knowledge management will become important technologies, Johnson said.

However, not all the changes are making things easier, according to Johnson.

"Now, if I have a sophisticated Java phone, and it fails, I have to reboot it," he said. "I wasn't expecting to have to do that with a mobile phone."

The Gartner summit continues through Friday.

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