Analysts predict difficult birth for wireless Web

Up to 65 per cent of wireless deployments in enterprises will fail within the next two years, according to an industry research group.

Immature tools, a limited understanding of user ergonomics and user disillusionment with first-generation wireless devices, especially WAP-enabled phones, are being cited as the main reasons by the Meta Group.

Jeremy Matthews, senior analyst with Ovum agrees there will be some wireless Web failures and that early criticism of the standard has been justified.

"But WAP [Wireless Application Protocol] is a sound application in a general sense and good things will be deployed. WAP will be successful as long as those involved get things right," he said.

"I think WAP has failed to catch on as the applications have been very simple and haven't played to what being mobile is all about. There are also many substitutes for the current services that are being offered."

Matthews said providers need to maximise the mobility aspect by personalisation and location. "They have failed to realise that content is not as important as context, providing the right information to the right person."

The information also needs to be compelling and dynamic, he saidWith fewer than 5 per cent of companies with wireless deployments, the next one to two years should be put aside as the 'pilot years', according to the Meta Group.

They predict mass acceptance of the technology will be achieved within two to three years.

For IT managers this means figuring out what wireless applications would be useful to their workforce and what sort of access is required now.

Geoff Johnson, research director with Gartner's Asia Pacific research centre said the when market conditions are right (such as in Japan with i-Mode), there will be a rapid takeup of the wireless Web.

"Mobile has been a very small part of the internal business, but now business is not just constrained to fixed networks," Matthews said.

"IT managers need to get their heads around [the fact] that not every customer will be desk bound. They may connect to the network from a PDA or a mobile phone. They need to think about wireless LANs, the possibility of Bluetooth and the inclusion of mobile software in network plans."

Johnson said even though there hasn't been a rapid adoption of wireless LANs in Australia, in the US they are quite popular.

Matthews believes wireless application service providers (WASPs) will be the most successful way to deploy WAP applications for enterprises looking to mobilise their workforce.

However, it really depends on the company's workforce how best to mobilise a network.

"Applications that will succeed in the B2B segment are quite clear, unlike the consumer market. Successful applications will include access to the Internet and corporate intranet, information management, and in the vertical segment, workforce management and fleet management," Matthews said.

According to the Meta Group, wireless interaction in the B2B markets will grow to 15 to 25 per cent of transactions within the next two to three years.

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