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Mobile

Serving up a slice over the wireless Web

Handset maker Motorola, Domino's Pizza and wireless carrier Verizon Wireless think they've come upon the next big thing: using a cell phone to order a pizza.

Handset maker Motorola, Domino's Pizza and wireless carrier Verizon Wireless think they've come upon the next big thing: using a cell phone to order a pizza.

The three companies are conducting a two-month trial of a new service they are calling "PizzaCast." Users of Verizon's wireless Web service in Las Vegas can now log onto a special site using their cell phones and order a pizza, choose a way to pay for it, and choose extra toppings.

It's one of several initial trials for "mobile commerce" in the United States, where the mobile Web is used instead of a personal computer, a store visit or a telephone call to order goods and services.

Analysts say that although mobile commerce appeals to consumers in Europe and Asia, in America it won't heat up for a while. One of the reasons, they said, is that no matter how you slice it, it's still easier to use the cell phone to dial up the local pizza restaurant than to spend the minutes squinting and fumbling through an array of choices on the tiny screen of a cell phone.

It's a different story in Asia and some parts of Europe, where mobile commerce is hotter than melting cheese. In those regions, the number of people that own and use a PC to surf the Web is very low. Instead, cell phones have become the main conduit to the Internet.

In the United States however, the personal computer is the surfing tool of choice--while under 10 percent of U.S. residents access the Web over a cell phone. Companies are now taking a cue from success overseas and are pushing for a greater focus on the mobile e-commerce market.

In the United States, about 3 percent of all online purchases are made using a mobile device. Gartner Dataquest believes that percentage will grow to nearly 30 percent by 2005.

But Kevin Noonan, a mobile commerce strategies analyst for The Yankee Group, said it'll be more of a slow burn in the United States, where the personal computer is still the surfing tool of choice among the wired public.

"It's important for retailers to begin testing the waters," Noonan said in an analysis released this week. But "it will take time for many consumers to become comfortable making purchases over wireless technology."

According to The Yankee Group's Online Shopping Survey of 3,500 online consumers, 71 percent own at least one mobile communications device. However, only 14 percent say they would be likely to make a purchase using this device.