Killer applications and the advancement of 3G technology will mean a bright future for mobile devices, according to Michael Price, president and CEO of MobileBriefs, who believes his company has one of the applications that will help drive the market into the future.
International Data Corp. (IDC), Framingham, Mass., recently revised upward industry forecasts for smartphones and handheld wireless devices to $26 billion by 2004. Third-generation technology will enable these devices to transmit and receive information much faster than today's devices. Despite some delays in Europe, 3G is advancing in the United States and should be widely available in the next couple of years, Price says.
"Market trends and market evolution during the past several quarters indicate smart handheld devices have an extremely positive future," adds Kevin Burden, senior research analyst for IDC's smart handheld devices (SHD) research program. "Technological progress, particularly in mobile multimedia and wireless areas, will continue at a rapid pace, and 2001 will prove to be the year when mobile access devices hit their stride."
Personal companions dominate the SHD market, representing 73 percent of worldwide shipments in 2000. Most personal companions ship with the Palm OS; Palm has dominated this space since its inception, according to IDC.
However, new products from Microsoft and Research In Motion (RIM) have softened Palm's grip on the market-leading position. "Microsoft and Research In Motion have clearly managed to make inroads to Palm's market share," Burden says.
According to IDC, smartphones will be the fastest-growing segment of the SHD market. In 2000, there were 480,000 smartphone shipments; the numbers are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 164 percent to more than 23 million by 2004. Many of these devices will be enabled for wireless Internet access.
"This is a clear indication of where the technology and, more importantly, the typical user are heading. Access to high-quality content and services will provide the justification users have been waiting for," Price says.
Price sees four primary products and services driving wireless device growth:
E-mail, which Price predicts will become easier and voice activated. It's too cumbersome to write and send e-mails on wireless devices. But the further evolution of speech-to-text applications will lead to growing use of e-mail from wireless devices.
Location-based content, such as maps, ATM and gas station locations.
Radio alternatives, including satellite-based radio accessible by MP3-enabled devices to Internet radio, and personalized broadcast services by MobileBriefs and other companies. The next version of Palm, due at the time this issue went to press, and several other devices will have the capability to access this mobile content. Datamonitor, located in New York, predicts the mobile content market will grow from $3 billion this year to more than $31 billion in 2005.
E-commerce micropayments, which will enable the wireless user to point his device at a soda machine, for example, to pay for a can of pop. Beta programs for this technology are just getting underway in Australia and elsewhere, Price says.