Mobile

Ironing out cell phones' Web wrinkles

New cell phone technology, improved networks and better software will make Web browsing via cell phones a more popular communications feature, Openwave Systems' CEO says.

LAS VEGAS--Internet access over cell phones may be at best a clunky process now, but Openwave Systems CEO Don Listwin says there are better days ahead.

New cell phone technology, improved networks and better software will make Web browsing via cell phones a more popular communications feature, Listwin said Tuesday during a keynote address to the Comdex Fall 2001 crowd here.

Openwave, a company formed through the merger of Phone.com and Software.com, makes wireless Web software that runs many of the features found on cell phones, such as wireless Net access.

The United States has lagged behind Japan in wireless Net access, but Listwin said this should change as more telecommunications carriers launch so-called 2.5G, or next-generation, networks.

"You may have heard of 'WAP is crap' or 'WAP-lash,'" Listwin said, referring to the Wireless Application Protocol technology upon which Openwave bases its cell phone Web browser.

"Here in North America, carriers are starting to deliver real value to you. In 2002, we think there's a real growing opportunity in these technologies."

Listwin said new cell phone technology, such as a "mouse" for Web surfing, will help popularize the notion of the mobile Internet. As a result, buying a book online, which previously took up to 70 clicks on a cell phone, may now require just three clicks to make the deal.

"It starts with a great device," Listwin said. "The new phones have a mouse for pointing and clicking. So we're moving away from the device with a user interface that was structured only for phone calls, (to more) personal phone calls and messaging."

Instead of drab green or gray screens and text-only outputs, the new generation of cell phones can support graphics and color, he added.

But where are the features?
The key for solidifying people's interest in wireless Web access is creating new software features, such as instant messaging, Listwin said.

Openwave on Tuesday unveiled new software that will allow cell phone users to send instant messages to MSN Instant Messenger buddies. More partnerships may be on the way, the company said. Openwave technology supports a messaging standard called SMS (short message service).

People can also preset 50 to 60 of their favorite sayings on a phone. To save time typing repetitive phrases, such as "Good morning, how are you?" people can type the phrase into the phone once, save it, and then send it again by pressing the number "1" on the keypad, for example.

"We announced instant messaging as the key new technology that will bridge the telephony world and the Internet world," Listwin said. "I believe the convergence of two powerful environments will begin now. It will begin in earnest as the devices are here, the networks are here and the messaging technologies are here."