Wireless Data, Web Access Key to Winning, Keeping Customers as Wireless Supernets Collide, Writes Andrew Seybold

As the wireless communications industry consolidates into a few nationwide supernetworks, carriers will find their ability or inability to offer data and wireless Internet services significantly impacting their efforts to win, keep customers, writes Editor in Chief Andrew M. Seybold in the current issue of Andrew Seybold's Outlook, the authoritative monthly newsletter on mobile data communications and mobile Internet.

Noting that mergers and joint ventures have left four wireless carriers controlling almost 60 million customers -- some 70 percent of the existing market -- Seybold draws two immediate conclusions: wireless service prices will go even lower; and AT&T and SBC/BellSouth will regret not placing greater emphasis on wireless data.

"The projections of how many wireless users will discover data and make use of it (range) from 10 percent of the wireless population to 50 percent," Seybold says. "Our own estimate is that over the next twelve months, 20 percent will at least take a stab at some form of wireless data access to the Internet or to their own corporate data (depending) on how soon carriers and information providers can improve customers' experiences with less painful and faster access."

Seybold's projection suggests an available market of about 17 million of the current 85 million wireless users, which, he says "... may not be as bullish as the industry would like, but ... the most realistic." He also analyzes the technology and potential of the wireless data offerings of leaders Verizon, BellSouth/SBC, AT&T, Alltel, Nextel and Sprint PCS.

Three Outlook articles focus on new mobile devices and services: Research In Motion's 957 Wireless handheld, Compaq's iPAQ Pocket PC and Panasonic's new Wireless Toughbooks.

Seybold observes that the new RIM device is shorter and thinner than a Palm VII, has a screen that is about the same size, a real, "thumbable" keyboard and a larger antenna than its predecessor device. Version 2.0 of RIM's BlackBerry software, also just released, features folder level- as well as mail synchronization.

"The main difference (from the RIM 950) is that I can now work with folders in addition to my inbox. As Web information becomes available, the 957 promises to become a popular device because of its increased screen real estate ... one more winner for Research In Motion."

Contributing Editor Barney Dewey looks at both the Microsoft Pocket PC (formerly Windows CE) operating system and the Compaq iPAQ handheld, announced simultaneously in April.

"Microsoft and Compaq both suffer from a flawed approach to palm-size devices," Dewey writes. "They think that the winning formula is to take as much capability from the PC model as possible and shrink it into a palm-size device. They don't get it ... If I want PC capability, I'll buy an ultra-thin laptop."

The information actually needed on a handheld is different from that on the desktop or laptop, he says, and should be accessible differently as well. Innovator of the "Active Content" concept, Dewey proposes that users not have to browse/surf the Internet, but should have information likely to be needed already available in memory and updateable wirelessly with alerts and changes.

"The iPAQ may be a good product for vertical applications," he says. "Although Microsoft has included a lot of `consumer' capability ... as a wireless solution for consumers, or even mobile professionals, the iPAQ is too costly and too big. It will cost $499 (and with enhancements) the complete wireless price is near $1,000."

To Seybold, Panasonic's new Toughbook 17 and 34 wireless notebooks "... represent the next chapter in what has been a great story for Panasonic. With modems for three different packet-data networks, (network interchangeability) means that these Toughbooks can be easily added into existing fleets of products.

"Instead of competing head-to-head with all of the other notebook vendors, Panasonic spent a lot of time identifying how it could make its systems last longer in the field," he says. "And that keeps field employees on the job and productive. There is strong demand for notebooks such as these that are thin and light but will take a beating."

Contributing Editor Victor Wortman's mobile implementation article follows a community health network as it supports visiting nurses in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area. STATmail is a Web-based system built around an Oracle database. It features more than 100 charts and is customized case-by-case for access by relevant treatment providers, vendors and family members. Developed by STATmail.com, Pittsburgh, the system was programmed using Puma Technology's Satellite Forms and implemented for wireless using InfoBeam technology, from JP Systems, Dallas.

In his "Mobiltorial," Seybold examines the competitive landscape in the palm-size market; the battle for the "home deck" of wireless Internet devices; the marketability of pricing fees; tradeoffs between use of wireless data and wireless voice; and Active Content -- which he regards as the right way to get information to wireless devices. Finally, he looks at IrDA vs. Bluetooth, finding both technologies relevant and useful.

Andrew Seybold's Outlook is a Monthly Perspective of Issues Affecting the Mobile Computing and Communications Industries. For a free copy or for further information about The Outlook, Wireless Data University, Andrew Seybold's Summit 4Mobility 2001 or Andrew Seybold Group consulting services, contact Ruth Johnson at Andrew Seybold's Outlook, P.O. Box 2460, Boulder Creek, Calif. 95006-2460; Tel 831/338-7701, Fax 831/338-7806, e-mail rjohnson@outlook.com, or visit www.outlook.com.

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