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by Gerry McGovern
Author, New Thinking

Accessing the Internet over your mobile phone is certainly the biggest thing since the last biggest thing. Biggest things make great news. Companies create visionary ads. People get excited. People go out and buy stuff. Increasingly, the promise of the ad and the reality of the product and service don't match. People get disappointed. People get jaded and cynical.

I don't have a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol ) phone because I don't have a compelling reason to buy one. Accessing the Internet with my computer can be frustrating. Accessing it over a mobile phone sounds like too much hard work. Maybe there is information that I simply must have while on the move, but right now I'm not aware of it. I'm rarely more than a few hours away from the ability to access the Internet through my computer. I can wait.

Problems with WAP include the following:
  1. It's plagued by reliability problems busy signals, slow connections, dropping lines, overloaded computers
  2. WAP suppliers are way behind in getting WAP phones into the shops
  3. WAP phones are very expensive, connection fees no less so hardly good value
  4. There is a very limited number of WAP services available and many of them simply don't work well
  5. Typing text using a mobile phone is not exactly "user-friendly"
  6. Credit card-size screens are a strain on the eyes
  7. Getting a WAP phone up and running can require numerous passwords and long spells adrift in telephone- support land
  8. Many WAP services have to be specifically customised for individual telephones this is a hugely expensive way to create services
  9. Many phone companies are only allowing their WAP customers to access the services of firms who have contracts with these phone companies. Thus the limited choice in WAP services becomes even more limited

"Just how disappointing is WAP?" Almar Latour of The Wall Street Journal asked recently. "A couple of numbers from Deutsche Telekom AB's T-Mobil unit tell the story:
The typical owner of a WAP handset uses it to access the Internet less than once a week, T-Mobil says. The figures the first usage numbers released by a European mobile provider show that just over 1 percent of T-Mobil's total wireless subscribers use WAP services."
It's not just in Germany where WAP has been a bit of a flop. Reuters reported that while more than 50 percent of people in Britain had acquired a mobile phone by June, "One cloud over the news was disappointing sales of mobile Internet phones, the future on which the industry has bet billions of pounds Analysts said many users were dismissing WAP as over-hyped because of its slow speed and limited services."

WAP may have problems, but if the Japanese are anything to go by, mobile services do indeed have a real future. Using i-mode, already 8 million mainly young Japanese are accessing the Internet using a 'thumb-pad' on their mobile phones (the number is growing at a million a month.) With i-mode you're constantly online, and you get charged based on the data transmitted rather than connection time.

Personally, I can't see myself accessing too much information over a mobile phone. But my children ah, that's a different matter. And they, of course, are where the future lies.

� Gerry McGovern, New Thinking. All rights reserved.

Gerry McGovern is the author of New Thinking, a weekly column which has received numerous accolades and a book, THE CARING ECONOMY

The Caring Economy
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The Caring Economy, by Gerry McGovern, is published by Blackhall Publishing of 26 Eustace Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. ISBN 1-901657-61-2 Price _27.50 or US$35.95
Email: [email protected]

It is also available in the United States from Irish Books & Media, 1433 East Franklin Avenue, MN, USA 55404-2135. Call toll-free: 1-800-229-3505.

Email Gerry McGovern at [email protected]
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