Freedom to Roam


Contrary to some reports, WAP is not dead, Gold insists, but “in distress.”
That’s because its key component, Wireless Markup Language (WML), is an
interim technology suitable for underpowered, “memory-poor” devices that
will soon be replaced by devices with greater processing power and more
memory. Within the next couple of years, he writes, microbrowsers such
as Microsoft Mobile Explorer and Opera, with full HTML and JavaScript
compatibility, will come online.

Wireless technologies are just another platform that IT needs to provide
tools and applications for, says Sidon, who points out that many executives
are waiting for PalmOS, Windows CE, or Symbian to establish itself as the
dominant platform. Meanwhile, Gold predicts that companion devices will
contain multiple embedded operating systems on various chips from a growing
list of companion and appliance manufacturers.

From a business perspective, Sidon says, companies are looking for “always-on”
connectivity at decent prices, something that cell phone users take for
granted and are beginning to realize that they need for data as well.
“This is especially true in Europe where a lot more people cross countries
for their work than in the U.S. or Japan,” says Sidon, who has worked
in both the United States and Europe and spent more than seven years in
Asia. He points out that the early successes in the United States and
Japan have been because of the availability of data networks, such as
iMode and Blackberry.

Nevertheless, says Auld, as global markets cause standards to converge,
the United States and Europe will come more into line with one another.
“The most-used third-generation standards will be W-CDMA wide area and TD-CDMA
for local area,” says Auld, pointing out that more than half the cellular
phones in the world operate according to the AMPS standard, which since
1988 has been maintained and developed by the Telecommunications Industry
Association. He also notes that people tend to mutter about BlueTooth for
the local area while ignoring other decent products such as ONEcom Windcast.

Don’t forget that infrastructure issues are complicated by on-the-ground
reality, Auld advises. He ticks off the issues for one of his company’s
clients, a foundry: “Because of the fire risk, the buildings were fabricated
in metal, which is rather impervious to radio waves. The air was full
of graphite, so even the screens and keyboards needed constant cleaning.
Then there was the constant electrical noise from the melting furnaces
and the welding apparatus.” Heavy industries, he says, will have to manage
much more than problems of bandwidth, limited portable power supply, and

Toward the
Virtual Company

In the medium term, a great shakeout is likely to happen in the area
of software development, where the seeds planted by venture capitalists
and their partners will begin to bear fruit, and losers will retreat.

fact, that’s already happening. Many companies are taking the intermediate
step of moving applications online. And for some providers, especially
in the healthcare and consumer finance areas, wireless access already
makes good sense. Some brokerages allow consumers to make wireless trades.
Hospitals are leveraging the power of wireless for bedside uses, allowing
doctors to chart each patient’s progress as they make their rounds. Bilotti
describes how one of his company’s clients, a healt