The opinions were divided as industry participants debated industry directions at the COMDEX "Wireless Technologies Program" this week in Chicago.
Efforts to project a sense of where the wireless format is moving were mixed and varied but a few themes emerged over the course of the two-day program. Identifying user demand, application development, the growing variety of wireless platforms, and standardization were the major topics of discussion.
Consensus among presenters and audience participants appeared to be that business applications, specifically wireless access to corporate data, will drive application development in the short term. Future growth will depend on ease of use, flexibility, convenience, and extended accessibility to mobile services. The mobile networks will evolve to develop customized and personalized applications and services with traditional fixed network applications migrating to mobile networks.
The continued US debate over standardization took on an emotional tone as participants struggled with the issue over the course of the program. The infrastructure to date in the US leaves mobile phones at a disadvantage. Due to the variety of wireless protocols in the US a seamless system is as yet unavailable.
While Europe enjoys the benefits of monolithic wireless standardization with GSM, the US continues to struggle with a variety of diverse standards including TDMA, CDMA, GSM, and IDEN. The lack of a standardized platform on top of this wireless network (i.e. Symbian, JAVA, WAP, Palm) brings obvious difficulties for application and platform developers.
WAP was frequently mentioned as a primary model for standardization due to its specific capability of presenting data to hand-held devices. Phone.com projected 80% of mobile phones to be WAP-enabled by 2001.