Here in the United States, we like to think we're always on the cutting edge of technology-the fastest computers, the most advanced networks and so on. But there's one area where we're pretty much just twiddling our thumbs compared to Asia and Europe: the wireless Net.
In its most familiar form, the wireless Internet involves little chunks of Web information and services that are accessible from anywhere via a mobile phone. But that's just a quick brush over the real potential of this technology.
E-commerce is what's really bound to boom. Asian and European businesses of all types are likely to benefit, but what about us?
It depends. Right now, the wireless Net is more overlooked than embraced. The boom in Europe and Japan is partly due to the lack of landline Internet access and the high cost of local phone calls-things we have in affordable abundance. Therefore, it's a very attractive alternative for overseas users who've already adopted mobile phone technology. Forrester Research predicts that 54 percent of Europeans will be using the mobile Internet by 2005. Statistics are even stronger in Asia, where 16 million Japanese already subscribe to i-mode, a text-messaging Web service for mobile phones.
Our idea of what makes a quality Internet experience (fast access, lots of graphics, easy navigation) doesn't jibe well with current wireless Net offerings. Zia Daniell Wigder, research director for broadband and wireless with Jupiter Research, says, "Carriers and companies with mobile strategies must convince consumers that the mobile platform is a fundamentally different medium from-and not simply a stripped-down version of-the desktop Web."
Analysts agree, it's just a matter of time until our wireless Internet boom. Business use, including m-commerce (mobile commerce), is pegged as a potential hot-growth area. The arrival of 3G (third-generation) mobile technology over the next few years is also expected to provide faster access, greater bandwidth and the ability to deliver more diverse applications.
Keep an eye on the wireless Net as it advances. Issues will arise, concerning everything from providing a mobile-accessible Web site to ways that new services can improve productivity. The latest developments are found at wireless Internet sites like AnywhereYouGo.com and Wap.com. You can also sign up at FierceWireless.com for a weekly mobile Internet report via e-mail.