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IDC Forum: Mobiles will kill Wintel

At the IDC forum Tuesday, the future of the TV, PC and telco was looking decidedly shaky. Jane Wakefield reports from Venice

Mobile phones will be the PC of the future and will become so at the expense of Microsoft and Intel according to speakers at the IDC European Telecoms Forum in Venice Tuesday.

George Gilder, president of Gilder Technology Group, regarded in the industry as something of a visionary who frequently advises the US government and America's leading tech firms, believes the old players' days are numbered: "There will be no room for the old players" he told assembled analysts and journalists.

"Nokia and ARM can do it better than Intel and Microsoft. The new model will overthrow Microsoft and Intel. The common PC of the future will be a digital cellular phone. It will be portable as a watch, personal as a wallet, able to recognise speech and navigate streets, get emails and open doors."

In this brave new world of mobile telecoms, TV will also become obsolete according to Gilder who claims telecoms is "the enemy of television" and should destroy it. "Television will be a minor option amid a huge cornucopia of offerings transferred via the Internet," he added.

IDC's vice president of telecoms, Mark Winther agrees and predicts that mobile phones will replace PCs as the main access device for the Internet by 2004. He also predicts that 100 percent of mobiles will be WAP-enabled by 2004, accounting for around 1.3 billion users worldwide, compared to 721 million PC users.

Further, Winther believes voice-powered Web sites and voice-enabled e-commerce will be the killer applications of the mobile Internet, suggesting that companies need to "teach the Web to talk".

As well as developing new sexier, easier to use applications, the mobile-driven Internet will demand new network technology according to Gilder. Current switched networks need to be replaced with optical networks in order to support the vast amount of data and the new platforms customers will demand from operators, he said. The answer, to that demand, said Gilder, lies in the next generation of optical networks. "One [optical] cable can carry more information in a second than the whole Internet two years ago carried in a month" Gilder said.

Supporting Gilder's predictions and calls for change, representatives from network providers Lucent and Nortel urged the incumbent European telcos to modernise their networks quickly. "We can transform a country-wide network in a year," claims president of marketing at Nortel Bill Joll. He praised some incumbents for embracing change aggressively, but said BT was not on the list. "BT is still in the old paradigm, irrespective of what they may say, they are not changing" he said.

Oscar Cicchetti, network director of Telecom Italia, Italy's incumbent telco, agrees that the old networks are "obsolete" but claims telcos are reluctant to give up on the investments they have made in them. Cicchetti suggests the future lies in cost-cutting, and scaling down the size of the telco's businesses.

Telecom Italia is cutting 2.5 billion euros off the cost of its wireline business this year at the cost of 6,000 jobs. BT is also considering rationalising its current business with speculation mounting it is about to spin off its mobile and Internet divisions.

The bottom line on Bluetooth is that it *will* succeed, the question that remains is -- when? Read the news comment from Guy Kewney on AnchorDesk UK