To Succeed, Coming Generations of Wireless Application Protocol Phones Must Solve the Browser Problem, Writes Andrew Seybold in ``Andrew Seybold's Outlook''

Several years of successful promotion and evangelism notwithstanding, wireless service providers are wondering if the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) community will be able to deliver on the promise of "...millions of WAP-enabled phones driving increased revenues and reducing (subscriber) churn," says Editor-in-Chief Andrew M. Seybold in "Andrew Seybold's Outlook," the authoritative monthly newsletter for the Wireless Internet and Mobile Computing communities.

"I view WAP as the Citizens Band Radio of the Wireless Internet," Seybold writes. "People who try CB radios get a feel for how valuable two-way radios can be. But because the range is so limited, CB is used mostly between truckers ... Similarly, today's WAP phones enable us to access portions of the Internet and to accomplish a few rudimentary tasks. Hopefully, people who try WAP phones will get a feel for how valuable the Wireless Internet could become."

Despite the projection of 10 million WAP-enabled phones in the United States in a year, it is questionable whether people will use the browser-based WAP, Seybold says.

"As a transport protocol, it is well conceived and thought out," he says. "But the premise of using a browser on a phone because we use one on our desktop is flawed."

Seybold cites the success of NTT DoCoMo's nonbrowser-based iMode service to illustrate that there are alternatives to WAP, as well as migration paths WAP could follow in order to make the technology work better.

"There are more than six million iMode users in Japan ... 90 percent have never seen the Internet except on their iMode phone. Their expectations are vastly different from those of us who grew up on the Internet using a seventeen-inch screen and high-speed access. For us, the Internet experience on a four-line by twenty-character phone with a text-based browser leaves a lot to be desired."

Possible remedies for WAP, he believes, include: graphics on phones; higher-speed packet networks; or a "fix" that facilitates movement about the Internet "... up, down, sideways and diagonally. Most likely, a combination of improvements and developments will provide the solution. While we have been able to fix network technology issues by building handsets that are multi-band and multi-mode, this is only a partial solution when it comes to data access."

In a second major article, Seybold recounts his and partner Barney Dewey's experience with the WebLink Wireless' (formerly PageMart) two-way instant messaging service and Motorola's new Talkabout T900 wireless messaging device.

Noting that the Talkabout T900 device lacks communications ports or operating systems that enable addition of applications such as downloading address books or saving messages to device memory, Seybold says that at a list price of $199 ($179 from WebLink) and with aggressive pricing models, the service is a good buy for instant messaging.

Contributing Editor Robert D. Frank reports on products from Motorola, Philips Speech Processing and Diversinet at the recent SuperCOMM show in Atlanta. Motorola maintains that its Smart Networks Platform of processors and software will provide customers with faster time-to- and longer time-in-market. Philips Speech Processing, Frank observes, is third in the world in the number of speech processing patents it holds, trailing only IBM and NEC. Diversinet presented new m-commerce products: Passport Certificate Server, for managing IDs and Certificates, and Passport Authorization, a tool set to issue Passport Digital Permits for authentication and authorization.

Frank also reviewed CyberGenie, a telephone key system from Ericsson spin-off Cygnion Inc. Negatives: a handset too small to cradle between face and shoulder and to use as a practical long-call instrument; no line-in-use indicator; too many keystrokes to use the integrated menus; no speakerphone capability. Positives: lightweight, wireless handset, and excellent speech interface, contact integration and call logging.

In his monthly mobile implementation article, Contributing Editor Victor Wortman details the six-month-long effort by MasterCard and some 100 organizations -- banks, industry players and network operators -- to make PDAs and cellular phones serve as point-of-sale terminals for wireless MasterCard transactions.

The effort, led by MasterCard's Chris Jarman, published its first set of standards in June. Ownership was passed to the participating hardware, software and communications standards groups for distribution to their members, with working implementations expected by year-end.

Other: In his Mobiltorial, Seybold praises computer power plugs on planes; announces an upcoming article on small, light notebook computers; and growls about the FCC's comportment relating to spectrum auction timing and rule-changes, and the failure of wireless service operators to solve their coverage deficiencies.

In "Picks and Pans," he gives thumbs-up to Japanese high-speed systems now rolling out; Bluetooth's progress in Japan; and separate area codes for wireless devices. Thumbs-down goes to 3G Spectrum licensees that will be charging a premium for the service but as yet offer nothing to deliver over it; phone viruses, as phones become more like computers; and FCC greed.

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