Mobile phones' prolific penetration and handheld computers hold the key
that unlocks ecommerce potential worth over $7.29
trillion worldwide by 2004.
HANOVER, 3 Mar 2000 (Manila Bulletin) -- ''Tomorrow and beyond'' was telecoms group
Ericsson's slogan at the recent CeBIT tech trade, and for many visitors the
event was just an electronics Toy Story.
But despite Ericsson's loud echoes of Buzz Lightyear - the hero of Disney's
box office hit who aims to go "to infinity and beyond" - the mounting
role that electronic gadgets can play in business is raising the stakes, and
with it the competition for a slice of a $7 trillion market.
Cellphone makers at the fair continued to play up their mass-market appeal,
laying out their wares like gems in a trendy jewellers. But handheld computer
players showed they have value to add, and together the two have formidable
From now, the race is on to produce a palmtop computer with in-built wirefree
Internet links that people can also talk through, and that will work worldwide.
"I think within the next 12 months we'll certainly see that
happening," said Peter Richardson, principal analyst at Gartner Group's
Dataquest. "At CeBIT next year there'll be a rash of these kinds of
The winners stand to tap a portion of an enormous market in
business-to-business ecommerce - estimated by Gartner to be worth over $7.29
trillion worldwide by 2004.
THE WAP IS NOT ENOUGH
Despite the hype around mobile Internet access through Wireless Application
Protocol (WAP) on mobile phones, analysts say limits on telecoms capacity and
the nature of mobile phone use clip the scope for cellphones alone in the
But their massmarket penetration - nearly 300 million people have already
acquired the cellphone habit globally - is an enticing foundation to build up
services through handheld computers, of which around 10 million have been sold
As companies shift more of their business onto electronic networks, they want
to maximize efficiency through "alwayson" connections with their
workforces by, for instance, letting sales staff input orders on the road.
Some ground can be covered through wire-free links between a handheld
computer and a cellphone - here Bluetooth radio technology to link up devices
plays a key role - but the ultimate goal is just to have to carry one, light
Handheld market leader Palm said at CeBIT it plans to bring out a non-US
version of its Palm Pilot VII, which has wireless connectibility for the United
States, by the end of the year.
Palm is already loosely cooperating with global handset leader Nokia, on what
Dataquest expects will lead to a version of a Palm device that can communicate.
Greg Rhine, vice president of worldwide sales for Palm, said 230 large
corporations in the United States have opted for Palmbased systems in this area,
and over 30 corporate users were exclusively based on Palm technology.
But while Palm can already claim a 70 percent share of its market worldwide -
and Nokia has 27 percent of the much bigger cellphone sales total - big rivals
are catching up.
Software giant Microsoft has signed up personal organizer experts Casio and
leading PC names Compaq and HewlettPackard to produce gadgets using Microsoft's
A dazzling array of functions is promised from its "Pocket PC"
software, from audio books and downloaded music to dictation and extensive
Web-site downloads, as well as special short cuts to keep workers on corporate
And Symbian, a consortium of cellphone leaders led by British palmtop maker
Psion, used CeBIT to show its new upgraded "Quartz" platform, which
promises with Bluetooth to combine the functions of a personal organiser with a
cellphone -including e-mail, webbrowsing and fax - on a Motorola handset.