Valerie A. Rosenblatt
It is now common knowledge that the Internet has radically changed the way people do business and live day-to-day life. The Internet has opened new channels of communication within society in very much the same fashion as stone plates, papyrus, and books did. Today, people communicate with their business partners and clients through e-mail, check inventory and fulfill orders, make travel reservations, take care of their Christmas shopping, conduct research, store information, and accomplish many other vital tasks faster and more efficiently using the Internet.
Similar to the Internet, over the past few years mobile phones have turned into a mass-market sensation, opening new ways of communicating. People are no longer tied to their office desks, home phones, and telephone booths when they need to make a call. The widespread cellular coverage, at least in Europe, Asia, and North America, allows one to make a phone call from a mobile phone practically from anywhere, and services are only getting better and more accessible. There are already over 600 million mobile phone users in the world, and by 2004 this number is expected to grow to as many as 1 billion.
But the technological advancement never stops. Humans are constantly trying to raise the bar and continue to create new ideas and tools to improve their lives. A new technology uniting wireless capabilities and the Internet concept has emerged — the mobile Internet. Mobile Internet gives users access to data and applications "anytime, anywhere" using mobile devices and wireless networks. Although mobile Internet has yet to live up to the hype and show true benefits and returns that will prove its viability and secure its permanent space in everyday life, mobile Internet already boasts several success stories that got the attention of the big players in the technology industry. The enthusiasm has been accompanied by the introduction of new products and services designed to leverage the best attributes of mobile devices' form factor and wireless connectivity. It is undeniable that at a certain time, there will be more users using wireless technologies than users using PC desktops to connect to the Internet. The main question is when the proliferation of the wireless Internet services will hit mass-market capacities. According to many sources, this revolution is not that far away. Based on the evaluation of data published by several major research houses, by 2005 the number of devices accessing Internet services wirelessly will exceed the number of devices accessing the Internet using wired technologies, opening a whole new world in business as well as personal growth opportunities.
This chapter focuses on the subject of proliferation of the wireless Internet in the enterprise and consumer markets. Starting first by going over the main historical events in the world of the wireless Internet services, the chapter traces the evolution and underlying ground for wireless Internet services technology. Similar to any technological advancement, wireless Internet boasts many success stories along with fallouts from which lessons were learned; you will find examples of both in this chapter. Yet, technology alone is relevant only in science books, and cannot be successful without proper applications. This chapter explores how various applications make wireless Internet viable, and not just another over-hyped sensation.