Monday, April 09, 2001


Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

Every consumer magazine, trade magazine, computer magazine, and ezine are hyping wireless "solutions" these days. Today's writers and software vendors are shouting the the new mantra from the mountain tops: "m-commerce" (Mobile Commerce). M-Commerce? Give me a break. I'm having a hard enough time getting a reliable CELL PHONE connection - never mind a secure, e-commerce connection. Seriously, there are parts of the metro Los Angeles area that don't have normal, plain old cellular coverage. And forget it if you're "off the beaten trail", or you're in the mountains, or you're - gasp - actually moving when using your wireless device.

Yes, I know, there are more and more towers going up all the time, and the phone are getting "smarter" and can connect to a wider range of signals (analog and digial) - but it just plain "don't work" too much of the time. Even if you had 100% clean, reliable coverage I'm not conviced that people will try to buy much of anything on phone with a 3 line display. I mean, really, are YOU looking forward to "tapping" your way through entering your name, shipping address, phone number, email, credit card number and expiration date out on a cell phone? Let's see...

22 = B
666 = O
22 = B
0 = space
222 = C
88 = U
7777 = S
444 = I
222 = C
55 = K

25 "taps" for my name. Rrrrriiiight. Homey don't play that. OK, you say, what it might not be practical on a cell phone - but how about a PDA. It's much easier to "type" on one of those. I agree - but no matter how much I love my Palm Vx (and I DO love it!) - and assuming I bought the $300 wireless modem and paid the $35 per month for service - I STILL wouldn't do it that often. Why? Too much work. Instead I'd just wait until I got to a wired public access point (another much-hyped, "didn't really work out" technology of two years ago) and use my computer to connect with a fast, secure connection.

You've gotta' crawl before you can run. Just because you CAN connect to the web on a cell phone or PDA - why would you? A more logical first step first step could be the implementation of BlueTooth and other wireless networking technology infrastructure in places I'm likely to be (airports, hotels, and in the home) - THEN having an alternative INPUT device would be great. But still, even then, people will will have to click, type, tap or scrawl to place an order. This is less than ideal. Generally, people want things to be easy - especially if they're parting with money for goods or services. We really need something as easy to use, as intuitive, as... oh I don't know... a phone.

For "m-commerce" - or anything wireless beyond stock updates - to become truely pervasive we need voice-activation. I mean, my parents (not the most tech-saavy people on the planet) have to be able to use it. I'm not talking about some super-charged voicemail-hell type of application (" 1 to order, enter your 16 digit account number followed by the pound sign...") but a true, voice-activiate, intelligent application (" FileMaker Pro Unlimited using my American Express Card and ship to my home address..."). THAT will be the "killer application" of 2002 (?), not "m-commerce" on a cell phone.

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