Mobility

Wireless trends: Looking ahead at 2003

Will wireless technology lead an economic turnaround? Find out about three emerging trends that bode well for wireless in the year ahead.


It’s not difficult to see that wireless products, like the personal computer 20 years ago and the Internet a decade ago, are obviously the best candidates to lead the economy back from stagnancy. There is plenty of evidence to illustrate this, such as the increasing development and sales of wireless systems, including telephones, handheld computers, telephone-computer combos, laptops, enterprise systems, automotive and home systems, and numerous others.

Sure, the tech market’s in the dumps and likely won’t recover until the consumer world starts investing again in new products and services. Still, suppliers are already gearing up for the next growth economy, and there are a number of people in the know who believe that an economic upswing might not be as far away as some other people expect. What follows is a look at what specific kinds of wireless technologies will be leading the way when the IT business rebounds.

Multimedia Messaging Service
A recent survey of 1,000 wireless developers by Evans Data clearly shows that the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), introduced only 22 months ago, is now by far the hottest new component being used in wireless application development. More than 25 percent of the developers surveyed said they have begun writing applications using MMS. That is a good number at this early stage.

The MMS data format, created by a coalition of mobile communications companies led by Nokia, is designed for person-to-person and commercial content delivery services. Even though it is not yet a standard, the format is supported by a new generation of “imaging phones” and mobile application software development toolkits—including those from Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia, and others.

Armed with MMS, a wireless device user can send photos, audio, video, and text data to virtually any other kind of device—tethered or portable. That’s powerful stuff considering the motley collection of hardware those devices are built on: the data-sharing equivalent of “write once, run anywhere.”

The EDC survey also reports that R&D spending (and hiring) in the wireless development sector is up over the last 12 months. This is a good indicator overall for the industry. Why? Because it shows that companies are again willing to take a risk with promising new technologies—even at considerable investment.

Wi-Fi and 802.11g
You could compare the current state of affairs for wireless development to that of Web development a few years ago, when 56K modem connections were considered fast. Everyone in the wireless world is similarly starved for bandwidth, making the development of interactive applications difficult. That’s where the latest wireless standard for accessing the Internet, 802.11g—which exceeds the performance of 802.11b and 802.11a—will come up big in the coming year.

Actually, it isn’t an industry standard quite yet. But it will be anointed as one in 2003. Because it can move so much data so quickly, enterprises are not even waiting for it to become a standard—they’re already using it in development projects. Various flavors of 802.11 are now being built in to most laptops and handheld computers.

Broadband installation continues to grow almost everywhere in the world, with rapid expansion in Eastern Europe and South and East Asia. Enterprise and home wireless local-area networks, most of them based on the IEEE's 802.11b standard, have popped up in shopping malls, transportation terminals, offices, coffee shops, and homes. New cell phone services, such as text messaging and photo sending, have been a big hit. Indeed, consumers have shown themselves willing to spend more than ever before on media and communications hardware and services. The challenge now is for companies to come up with offerings (“Get to work, developers!”) that will keep people opening their wallets.

Prices are dropping
With the price of PDAs in general coming way down in the last year or so, more and more people and organizations are considering purchasing them. That translates into a larger audience for any mobile applications, in both the consumer and business worlds. I’d say the mobile development world should be an exciting place in 2003.

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