Mobile Internet - next big thing?

Consulting outfit PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is hailing "killer applications" for mobile Internet computing as IT's next big thing.

Presenting its twelfth annual Technology Forecast (2001 to 2003), PwC said widespread wireless Internet usage had "unlimited potential" to change the way organisations do business, but success depends on the timely development of new applications suited to the characteristics of the mobile environment.

"To be successful, the mobile Internet will need to find its own 'killer applications' - it won't just be the conventional Internet delivered on a handheld," said PwC Asia-Pacific leader for IT/systems integration, Fred Balboni.

He said location-based services will also be key and will accommodate the ever-growing mobile workforce - typically found in sales, manufacturing and logistics professions.

However, one of the greatest barriers to mobile Internet computing is slow wireless network speed.

PwC director of the firm's US Technology Centre for R&D, David King, said that wireless networks operate at speeds no faster than the dial-up modems of the late 1980s, and that early success stories will come from applications that can offer compelling benefits in spite of these limitations.

King also claimed that 98 per cent of developer-users preferred using PCs on a wireless network, especially given mobile devices' small (or absent) keyboards, small displays and limited storage.

According to King, a true killer application needed to provide immediate network access, allow for maximum user productivity, have a constant presence, offer personalisation, provide location-based service, and be "hyperconnective."

Applications will also need to vary depending on the niche market, accommodating anyone from the mobile professional to consumer. Niche markets would include vertical B2B users from the medical, industrial or government sectors.

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