The proliferation of technologies and devices for wireless Internet access reflects the promise, as well as the problem, of mobile data services.
While the number of consumers with wireless Net access is growing, it is important to remember that individuals will want different types of Web services. Consumers will use Web-enabled cell phones, personal digital assistants and notebook computers to access wireless Internet content. And manufacturers will doubtless promote other types of devices as well, such as the WebPad Metro.
In addition, although mobile data speeds will increase and prices for Web access will fall, wireless progress will also continue to trail that of the wired Internet. Wireless content providers will have to offer services that take advantage of the particular qualities of mobile devices. Despite lots of market hype, mobile commerce, therefore, will supplement Internet e-commerce--not offer a complete substitute.
The diversity of segments within the mobile Web leads to some unusual patterns. For example, in almost every previous example studied by Gartner, consumer interest in technology platforms and services has correlated with income. Higher-income individuals have a greater need, greater familiarity and skills, and greater willingness to pay for technology.
However, a recent Gartner survey of consumers in the United States and Europe found a lack of correlation between income and the use of mobile interactive services. This finding reflects that high proportions of mobile workers today are employed in blue-collar occupations: plumbers, electricians, delivery drivers and others. The consumer's lifestyle will determine whether he or she uses the mobile Web and what he or she uses on the mobile Web.
Adoption of mobile services will largely rest on the attitudes of the individual. Individuals' choices will involve complex trade-offs regarding cost, convenience and other factors. If people feel that the anytime/anywhere convenience of mobile Web access makes a particular service attractive to them, they will use it. Otherwise, most will not.
The overall value equation is mobility times immediacy minus inconvenience. High levels of usability and a sound understanding of human factors, engineering and psychology will be required for success.
(For related commentary on how wireless technologies will change business computing, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
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