LONDON -- Phone.com, the U.S.-based software
developer for wireless devices, expects more than half the
world's predicted one billion mobile phone subscribers in 2003
to be connected to the Internet, a senior executive said.
The Nasdaq-listed group, whose stock has surged more than
700 percent since launching in June, expects Wireless
Application Protocol (WAP) phones to start shipping in serious
volumes in the second quarter of next year, said Malcolm Bird,
the company's Managing Director and Vice President, Europe.
"The millions (of WAP phone unit sales) will come in the
first and second quarter of next year," he told Reuters in an
Many industry forecasts expect mobile phone subscriptions
globally to hit the one billion mark in 2003, but some have
forecast that the Internet-linked share of the total will be
Formerly Unwired Planet, Phone.com was a driving force
behind WAP -- the main software handshake to link cellphones to
the Internet -- and has become a rare dominant U.S. player in an
industry where European groups are seen as leaders.
The WAP cellphone experience should be simpler than surfing
on a personal computer. "We're hoping many users won't ever
know they were on the Internet," said Bird.
Building on a "thin client" model, where users need only
lightweight equipment to handle information on a remote,
networked system, Phone.com's prime goal is to generate sales of
its server equipment.
It has stimulated the market through the royalty-free
distribution of a microbrowser -- the software engine for a
cellphone to navigate the Net -- and it is distributing a
wireless portal or Web gateway for operators to brand in their
"The browser is a profitable business but not the main
revenue-generator," Bird said.
Phone.com's customers currently total about 46 mobile
operators, or 10 percent of the world's operators, through which
it claims to reach 40 percent of world subscribers, and Bird
said it aimed to retain a dominant position in future.
Just under half of its current commercial relationships are
in the trial phase.
Bird said the loss-making company, which has been developing
mobile phone Internet access technology since 1995 -- aims to
capitalize on its "first-mover advantage" by having already
experienced the technology pitfalls that newcomers encounter.
Global cellphone leaders like Nokia and Ericsson have
licensed Phone.com's browser for the U.S. market although he
said they are developing their own for Europe, where Phone.com
competes with them.
Infrastructure manufacturers including Siemens, Alcatel,
Sema and Motorola are reselling Phone.com products -- which Bird
said should position the company well for future network