Editorial: Don't get hung up on mobile Internet

Mobile commerce, or wireless Internet, has proven to be a starting point for a lot of grandstanding by folk of opposing views, à la WAP is dead. The last one I heard was "WAP is dead, long live WAP", referring to its constant evolution into something that might one day be successful.

People get so hung up on the labels. I couldn't care less whether WAP succeeds. What I want to know is, when will I be able to do banking and other transactions using a phone, and when will I be able to browse the corporate intranet and global Internet on a phone or handheld device?

I don't mean technically able, either. I mean local services that are economical and easy to use. Some of this we can do now. Some of it can be done using WAP. Some of it can be done using Short Message Service. Some use customised packages.

It has become clear that when a country is starting from the point where everyone has experienced the Internet, it raises the bar that mobile Internet has to come in at. The specific functionality is important; the technology labels are not. The population can change to superior technologies fast because every six to 12 months, on average, people replace their handsets.

In Australia mobile Internet services are, thanks to time-based charging, being priced too high for too poor a service, to enable mass consumption. Therefore, mobile Internet is currently of most use for high-value offerings, such as field access to enterprise databases and access to large-dollar financial services.

Next year the introduction of the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) with its 'always on' capability will create opportunities for further mobile Internet development, although nowhere near what 3G promises.

Let's hope when GPRS is launched there is some effort to really develop the market with low pricing. The introduction will, by its packet nature, go hand in hand with a change in pricing strategy from time-based to data-based anyway. This will be a crucial opportunity to push the market forward.

Letters for publication - your comment welcome. E-mail richard_wood@idg.com.au

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