The factors that distinguish m-commerce from e-commerce (Table 1), together with the three customer relationship dimensions ‚ personalization, permission, and specification (Table 2) ‚ constitute the building blocks of a new worldview for the mobile end user (MEU) in m-commerce. The m-portal serves as the integrative factor. The m-portal is a location-specific portal ‚ as the user changes location, the m-portal also changes. Either the CIP owner preconfigures it for specific countries , cities, areas/districts, and businesses that the user is visiting, or a dynamic specification host assesses where the user is and what role s/he is in and configures the portal accordingly . A geo-capable CLIP device can automatically shift between locations.

To illustrate , consider the case of Kathy, a sales engineer traveling from New York's JFK airport to Copenhagen's Kastrup airport. Upon arrival in Copenhagen, her CLIP device automatically shifts to the Copenhagen portal and only shows the related links relevant to Kathy and to Copenhagen. When she enters a specific shop in Copenhagen the m-portal lists goods offered in that shop based on her previous purchase history, even pointing out the shelf location of her preferred brand of mint. After some personal shopping, while taking a taxi to the customer's firm, Kathy checks her CLIP device for new e-mail messages. In one of the e- mails , a new purchasing officer at the client firm introduces himself and explains that he will be at Kathy's impending sales presentation. She checks out the profile of the purchasing officer on the client company's WAP site, adjusts two slides of her presentation located at her own company's intranet, and leaves the taxi, paying with the CLIP device.

The m-portal is an individual-specific portal tailored for both personal and professional tasks . In addition to the personalization features evident in the Copenhagen trip illustration, the m-portal is PIM based [3] . It can draw on all of Kathy's contact, schedule, and task information and use such information to automatically generate the content of the portal. The success of the m-portal depends on a continuous-loop personalization. Such continuous-loop personalization makes it very difficult to maintain the distinction between Kathy's private and professional lives.

Figure 1 shows the need for integration, which is a primary key success factor for the m-portal. In order to make the communication (C) functions work, there is a need for integration of the Internet (ISP), fixed-line service provider (FSP), and wireless service provider (WSP) offerings. Regarding voice, the phone should be able handle calls supplied by both WSPs and FSPs. Text messages come in multiple flavors like e-mail, fax, SMS (Short Message Services), and its cousin MMS (Multimedia Message Services). In many countries it is possible to route calls from the FSP to the WSP and to get the e-mail messages sent to the mobile phone. Sometimes, to accomplish such integration, users have to buy a mobile phone that is WAP-enabled or can handle POP3 protocol and therefore e-mails. In order words, the communication (C) functionalities are already fully integrated if the user chooses the right service provider and buys the right mobile phone. The state of the art regarding the information (I) functions is almost also at this level of integration. Through SMS and WAP, text-based data can be accessed. Many m-portals team up with content providers to deliver news and entertainment, and some also give access to the employing company's information system and/or private information stored in the personal information manager like MS Outlook. When it comes to the payment (P) functions, based upon efficient and secure exchange of financial data, the total aggregation is still evolving. We are not aware of any portal that can handle stock trades, m-banking, e-wallet, and billing at the same time. Terminals and services offering such applications separately do exist in some countries. Billing information flows directly form the WSP to the MEU as SMS. Most of the bigger Scandinavian banks offer m-banking solutions with stock trades included. Also in Scandinavia, some e-wallet trials are underway, focused on payment in supermarkets, for parking, and for paying highway tolls. The location (L) functionalities are also still evolving. These are based upon geocoded data and the aggregation and integration are still at low levels. We are aware of mapmakers making it possible to download maps to palmtop units that also can be equipped with a GPS receiver. Also a few trials are underway where the users can get the nearest restaurant, bar, or convenience store based upon geographical position determined by the WSP. Geo-coded datasets, however, are not made available in a way that the m-portal can use the data to personalize the CLIP functions.

Figure 1: Integration: Primary key success factor for the m-portal

Figure 1 illustrates the business opportunities for the m-portal where the arrows symbolize the needed integration. The first-level integration of the communication, location, information, and payment functions happens in the CLIP device. The figure also shows that the m-portal owner has to integrate already existing offerings or build applications that integrate the possible wireless dataflows, aggregations, and sources. Seamless and smooth-functioning partnerships with shared revenue are needed for effective integration of sources and services.

In the initial phase of the evolution of m-commerce, for some of the larger players, the key strategic goal will be the attainment of leadership, i.e., to become an m-portal. For other firms and for the firms that fail to become m-portals, strategies will have to evolve in terms of becoming effective m-portal partners . While it is too early to predict what the competitive field of m-commerce will look like, we can utilize Figure 1 to delineate some of the success requirements. We can do so for three situations: the battle for leadership, the m-portal, and the m-portal partner.

Battle for Leadership

Figure 1 illustrates clearly that the wireless service providers (WSPs) are well positioned for m-commerce business. WSPs have some exceptionally strong opportunities for being the winner of the game. Besides being in charge of the wireless data and voice flow to and from the CLIP device, WSPs also have access to sources that provide the value-adding communication, location, information, and payment features. Additionally some WSPs are also building applications that access the information systems of the users' employers . For example, the Danish WSP Sonofon has teamed up with HP to create access to the company intranet (Hewlett-Packard, 2000). In a report, the consultant firm Strategis Group Europe (2000a, 2000b) concludes that "wireless portals will provide operators with key competitive edge in Europe", and the WSP and the device manufacturers have core competencies in creating m-portals. Durlacher, another European consultancy, suggests that WSPs team up with traditional Internet portals because they have complementary strengths. WSPs bring experiences with mobile communications, billing, and location information to the table. These elements represent the weaknesses of the traditional Internet portals that, in return, have strengths in portal configuration, content creation and presentation, application, and partnering experiences (M ƒ ¼ller-Veerse, 1999). Partnering will be a key success factor for m-portals, a theme that we will visit later in this chapter.

With the exception of Japan's NTT DoCoMo (see Bradley & Sandoval, 2002), WSPs did not have a very good start in the m-portal business. [4] There have also been a lot of teething troubles with the first version of the preferred WAP protocol. [5] Also, many WSPs bet on the previously used "walled garden" content model, which restricts subscribers' access to third party portals. That approach had no success at all. [6]

Winners of the battle for leadership will be the m-portals that can utilize the key success factors for m-commerce ‚ mobility and locatability ‚ and offer high degrees of integration. Even though we are in the first stage of m-commerce where locatability is not fully implemented yet, any future-oriented discussion of effective business strategies for m-commerce must be based on locatability being a key feature of the m-commerce network.

The M-Portal

The m-portal strategy will be effective when it blends elements of personalization, permission, and specification of communication, information, payment, and location features in m-commerce services. The essential task of m-portals is to be an intermediary and mediator. In principle, the m-portal can be a database permit, specify and personalize the communication, provide information, enable payment, and provide location functions, where the primary mobile communications provider delivers all the data and voice. This is illustrated in Table 3.

Table 3: Contents of an effective business strategy for m-portals






Types of communication and senders can be permitted or forbidden

Types of information and senders can be permitted or forbidden

Payment features can be enabled or disabled, individually or collectively

Locatability and geo-positioning features can be enabled or disabled


Off/on duty "button", preferences, current time of the day and location of the user specify which messages go through

Off/on duty "button", preferences, current time of the day and location of the user specify types of information

Off/on duty "button", user and merchant preferences, current time of the day and location of the user specify types of transactions

Geographical position feeds CLIP specification features


Dynamic unified inbox

Me & My: Personalized information portal for news, travel information, PIM, company information and entertainment

Personal E-wallet, stock portfolio and phone bills

Dedicated maps

Source: Authors' research.

The m-portal will handle the permission element by giving the user rights to define the types of communication, information, and payment features. The m-portal will also offer one-button (or voice-activated) disabling functions so that preset permissions ‚ such as determining and communicating the user's location ‚ can be suspended for a while. Successful m-portals would have to allow users to become partly or totally invisible to the commercial side of the network, if the users so desire .

Based upon the general permissions set by the user, the m-portal will be able to specify content dynamically. The m-portal could use the geographical position of the user, the time of the day, and an analysis of services consumed to infer specification features and feed them to other CLIP providers and devices. A virtual off/on duty "button" on the CLIP device could allow the user to tailor the data and voice flow to and from the CLIP device. When it comes to using the CLIP device as an e-wallet, merchant preferences will also play a role in the detailed specification of the CLIP device functionality.

In these ways it is possible to create an ultra personalized m-portal. The CLIP device will handle all types of communication through a unified inbox. The information retrieval will be under the concept "Me & My", meaning dedicated information when and where the user needs it. Payments and financial transactions of many types will go through the CLIP device too. The location feature will be used to create dedicated maps and driving directions.

The essential task of the m-portal is to be an intermediary and an integrator of information. The versatile m-portal has to be simultaneously a database permit and specify and personalize the communication, information, payment, and location functions. The appropriate partners deliver the necessary data, services, approvals , and communications.

The M-Portal Partner

Many firms have to cooperate in order to create effective and attractive m-portals. Three vital groups of partners are central for m-commerce: device manufacturers, infrastructure enablers, and content providers. Table 4 shows these types of firms according to the communication, information, payment, and location features in m-commerce.

Table 4: M-portal partner products and services





Device Manufacturers

Mobile Phones, PDAs, Pagers

Mobile Phones, GPS receivers

Mobile Phones, PDAs, Pagers

Mobile Phones, PDAs

Infrastructure Enablers


WSP, GPS Network

Content aggregators, Internet portals

WSP, Banks, Credit card firms

Content Providers


Map makers

News agencies. Travel firms, Entertainment firms, PIM firms, Employers

Banks, Exchanges, WSP, Virtual and Physical businesses

Source: Authors' research.

Mobile phone manufacturers such as Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, Samsung, and Motorola are working intensely to create standard devices for m-commerce communications and transactions. Firms such as Palm, Psion, Handspring, and Microsoft are also working on wireless strategies using the handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) as the main m-commerce device. These firms will attempt to drive m-commerce in the directions they think are most profitable. Some outsiders, however, will also be in the game. These include pager firms, such as Research in Motion (maker of Blackberry devices), Glenayre, and Tandy Radio Shack, and GPS receiver manufacturers, such as Garmin, Lowrance, and Magellan. No de facto standards and protocols have emerged yet, so it is too early to describe the general interface between the devices and the m-portal. It seems reasonable, however, to focus strongly on the mobile phone producers because they already have developed solutions for all four primary CLIP functions ‚ communication, location, information, and payment ‚ of the m-portal.

When it comes to infrastructure enablers, the most important partners for the m-portal are the wireless service providers (WSPs). Other contenders include Internet service providers (ISPs), fixed-line service providers (FSPs), GPS network providers, content aggregators, Internet portals, banks, and credit card firms. In some cases, electric utility companies, transportation firms, and television firms may play a role in enabling m-commerce. In the initial years , WSPs hold an advantage ‚ they are already positioned as the mobile communications companies that have either their own or strongly dedicated infrastructures . Over time, however, other firms could make inroads, just as they did in the fixed line and ISP businesses in the recent past.

Perhaps the most important group of partners is the content providers. Each of the CLIP elements has specialized partners. The appropriate partner to handle the communication part will be the WSP. For location-related services, mapmakers are best positioned to provide location-related content. Lots of third-party information and entertainment providers could be partners in providing information. In order to handle the payment function, banks, exchanges, WSPs, and virtual and physical stores are likely to provide content. A big challenge for all will be the need for supplying geo-coded information so that specification of the m-portal services can be appropriate to the location-role of the user. Another and even bigger challenge is to integrate multiple and often competing technologies such as the following:

  • Network technologies (GSM, HSCSD, GPRS, EDGE, 3G)

  • Service technologies (SMS, MMS, USSD, Cell Broadcast, SIM Application Toolkit, WAP, Web clipping, MexE)

  • Mobile middleware (mobile portal platforms, mobile commerce platforms, mobile payment platforms, mobile banking platforms)

  • Mobile commerce terminals (operating systems, physical terminals, microbrowser , Bluetooth, smartcards, PKI, synchronization)

  • Mobile location technologies (GPS, TOA, E-OTD, COO, LFS Independent)

  • Mobile personalization technologies

  • Content delivery and format (XML, WML, VXML, cHTML)

While the competitive picture at this stage is emergent and blurred ‚ with many potential m-portal partners ‚ it is a good strategic stance to have a strong focus on the specific business strengths of each potential m-portal partner.

[3] PIM stands for personal information manager. It refers to software, devices, and databases that keep track of personal calendars, addresses, notes, etc.

[4] See Brandt, 2000; Economist, 1999c, 2000c; Hamilton, 2000; Hara, 1999; Hoffman, 2000; Kunii, 2000.

[5] See Baker, Gross, Kunii, & Crockett, 2000; E-business Forum, 2000; Economist, 2000b; Financial Times, 2000g; Hara, 1999; M ƒ ¼ller-Veerse, 1999; Nielsen, 2000a, 2000b; Young, 2000.

[6] See Baker, 2000; Economist, 2000a, 2000b; Nielsen, 2000b; Smith, 2000; Strategis Group Europe, 2000b; Young, 2000.