Of Mobile Birth

Will Wap Wag The Web?

Wireless Web browsing is taking its first tentative steps, but its potential is huge. According to IDC, as WAP microbrowsers and compatible Web servers proliferate, unlimited Web access will be coming to a PDA, cell phone, laptop, pager-maybe an everyday kitchen appliance-near you. When? IDC figures that within 18 months, there will be more worldwide wireless subscribers capable of Internet access than wired Web browsers.

"Once there are more wireless Internet users than wired users, Webmasters may first consider the needs of the wireless users and, secondly, the wired PC users," predicts IDC vice president Iain Gillott.

Things happen quickly on the Internet. It's not only driving growth for PDAs and phones, but also driving their architectures toward one another. For example, Nokia is licensing the Palm OS for its new generation of Internet-capable smart phones. Palm's easy-to-use interface code and PDA applications will be integrated with the Epoc phone operating system from Psion. In addition to traditional phone services and new voice technology from Nokia, the phones will include a Palm interface and Palm-like stylus for use with most of Palm's many existing applications.

The question is, will cell phones start looking like PDAs or PDAs like cell phones? Maybe we're headed for a hybrid such as Kyocera's pdQ, an oversized smart phone that runs Palm applications. "People will passionately argue for one or the other, but frankly, nobody has a clue how this will play out," says Mace. "Personally, I think more people will want a two-piece solution-connecting their Palm to their cell phone so they don't have to replace one when they replace the other."

As the leader in the area of handheld computing, Palm's decisions matter. With more than 6 million handhelds served, it's sitting on an incredible 78 percent of the remote computing market, according to IDC.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Of Mobile Birth.

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