Siemens learns some protocol

WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) is here now, but will never replace the PC as primary internet access device, predicts Siemens exec Harald Jung.

Despite a WAP-wary market, where analysts don't expect high-level functionality to hit the wireless internet market for up to four years, the phone company's local general manager for information and communications products believes the rise of WAP technology will soon see wireless and PC Web-enablement enjoying a similar marketplace to that of mobile and fixed-line telephony.

"They're not competing against each other," he said.

Jung explained that, even with the infusion of 3G (third generation) mobile telephony, internet access from handheld devices will be limited, despite rapid reductions in wireless download times.

Practical specifications such as display screen size would never see WAP-enabled mobile phones and other handheld devices threatening to replace the PC as primary point of access to the Web, he conceded.

However, Jung said, the convenience of wireless internet will soon be realised by the market, after which will follow a steady increase in WAP-phone take-up.

Jung referred to a recent "snapshot" survey conducted by the German-based technology company, in which 100 representatives from small businesses in NSW were quizzed on their use of mobile telephony.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed admitted to having little or no understanding of WAP, but 71 per cent considered their mobile telephone to be the "quickest way to get in touch" with business partners, clients and customers.

This widely accepted convenience of mobile telephony would be echoed in the take-up of WAP, he predicted.

A latecomer to the mobile phone market, Siemens has set humble objectives for its local sales performance.

In Australia, the vendor hopes to increase its market share from 6 per cent to 9 per cent in the next financial year, securing a position as the fourth largest company (behind Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola). To achieve this, the company will need to double the number of phones sold, Jung said.

However, Siemens, whose Australian operation attracts annual revenues of $1.1 billion, is up to the challenge, Jung believes, given its expected doubling of mobile phone sales this financial year compared with last.

He was reluctant to predict when, if ever, Siemens expected to threaten Nokia's number-one spot in the Australian market.

He admitted Siemens' brand awareness in the Australian mobile market "needs growing".

"We're not well known to the end user," he said.

Siemens will release three WAP-enabled mobile phones in Australia in June.