Mobile e-commerce Featured

9:44am EDT July 22, 2002

You’re on your way to a sales meeting when your phone beeps. You have an urgent e-mail from the office, your favorite stock is at a record high and you were just outbid in an online auction for a collectible Swiss watch.

You sell the stock and up your bid, all using only your phone.

Far-fetched? Hardly. It’s all possible now, and you’ll being seeing more of it. The only question is how many devices and which applications will stick, and which will not.

If you’re trying to determine which wireless weapon to add to your road warrior armory, you might want to consider a digital phone. A recent report by Mark Zohar of Forrester Research predicts that digital wireless phones will be the big winners of the mobile device race because:

Users reject mutant devices. Users will choose one device that is optimized for the primary function of making phone calls but also offers new data features.

Alternate devices are capped. Mobile consumers won’t carry around a utility pack of multiple devices. Other devices, such as wireless PDAs and video terminals that don’t provide the mobility or core voice function that mobile consumers demand, will remain niche products.

The information provided by these devices will also be simple in nature, and get to the point quickly. Zohar says users will demand devices that:

Provide timely information. Mobile consumers will want to receive customized information that is timely and time-sensitive. Consumers will not spend the time to read general news on their phones when they can do that at the office.

Enable simple transactions. Consumers won’t use their phones to conduct complex and time-consuming transactions like ordering a new computer or researching products. Rather, they will focus on simple transactions that are easily actionable.

Are location relevant. By 2001, wireless carriers will implement Automatic Location Identification technologies, including GPS solutions from SnapTrack and SiRF. Content providers such as MapQuest will capitalize on these technologies to provide personal navigational services. With a simple query, smart Yellow Pages will locate the nearest Hilton hotel or Vietnamese restaurant.

Personal information, including credit card numbers, will be pre-entered and stored. Users can choose who they receive alerts from and be notified accordingly. For example, Ticketmaster might alert you when your favorite artist schedules a concert in your area and enable you to purchase tickets with the touch of a button.

You can also expect instant messaging, similar to what online providers AOL and Yahoo! offer on the computer, to move over to phones as well.

This means you’ll have more and more of the features you have on your office computer contained — albeit in a simpler format — on your mobile phone. E-commerce will be in the palm of your hand no matter where you are — airport, sales conference or lunch.

Other predictions by Zohar include:

Billing will become profitable. Customers and merchants seeking simple and secure methods of payment for mobile e-commerce will turn to carriers for the solution. Customers will be able to add their purchases to their wireless bill, and have the carrier act as the billing and collections agent for the merchant.

New safety issues will arise. Israel and Spain already ban the use of cell phones while driving and Japan is in the process of implementing such as law. As mobile Internet services emerge, pressure will mount on U.S. state and federal governments to ban the use of mobile phones in cars. To avoid new legislative action, the wireless industry will roll out voice XML services that will let consumers use voice access to browse Internet content on a hands-free basis.

How to reach: Forrester Research, www.forrester.com

Todd Shryock (tshryock@sbnnet.com) is SBN’s special reports editor.