MIDRANGE Systems Talks Wireless with Andrew Seybold

Amy Rowell

The prospect of being able to access critical business data via a Web-enabled cell phone, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or some other type of wireless device is certainly appealing to many professionals. But what does this really mean? From a practical standpoint, what kind of data can users realistically expect to be able to access or deliver using the latest wireless technology? And how close are we to making legacy data truly portable? In the following interview, industry analyst and mobile computing guru Andrew Seybold offers his thoughts on the subject, and explores this technology that promises to take us one step closer to anytime, anywhere information access.

MRS: As someone who has been closely monitoring the evolution of wireless data technology over the past decade, how would you characterize the progress that has been made in this area in the past year?

AS: Actually, I would categorize 1999 as both a very good year for wireless data, and a very bad year. The good news is that there was a lot done to help enable wireless access to information that people really want and need, including the formation of Wireless Knowledge, Omni Sky, and Palm.Net—all of which came into being in 1999. And, of course, Microsoft has been making lots of noises in this area, and Lotus put together an MSD, or Mobile Services Division. So, there were all these really neat things happening that together say people are really interested in wireless data. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that all the hype surrounding the Internet has now drifted into the wireless Internet and that’s a shame, because what that means is that lots of people have taken their eye off the ball. They’ve taken their eye off of what I believe people want, which is corporate data, which is sitting on the AS/400s and behind the firewalls. Instead, they’re trying to bring us news, weather and sports in living color, wirelessly and there’s a feeding frenzy surrounding that sort of thing—which is a real problem because it means that people are going to get swallowed up by the hype, and start believing the hype and then they’re going to be really disappointed at what actually is available and can be done.

MRS: So, what should users expect? You noted recently that you get a sense that wireless data is real and that it is about to become easier to implement and to use. Could you elaborate a bit on this? How would you rate wireless data technology today? Is it still evolving or is it now production-ready?

AS: The answer is both.

First of all, let’s explore some of the latest trends and developments that were evident at the most recent Wireless IT conference. In three major areas—the exhibit areas, as well as the conference sessions, and in the back rooms where the real development work is going on—what I came across in all three of these areas convinced me that most of the vendors out there are being realistic about what they are able to deliver today, and those who are interested in using this technology are being realistic about they can expect to achieve with it. There seems to be an overwhelming sense that access to some data where there was none before is better than no access—and that’s a good attitude for people who want to implement wireless today.

There are also other signs that suggest that the entire industry—with the exception of SprintPCS and Yahoo and all the people who are over-hyping all this stuff—the rest of the industry understands that there is no one company—whether it’s Microsoft, AT&T or whomever—there is no one company that can put everything together that’s needed to deliver what mobility workers need. So these companies are reaching out to each other to forge alliances and partnerships. I’m right in the middle of it, so there’s an awful lot of this stuff that I see that’s not public yet but there’s a lot of it coming, and that’s very good. Because once we get past the point of, “We’re an invincible company and we can do it all,” to, “Let’s look at this complex problem and figure out who we need to work with to make it happen,” things happen faster.

[Note: This interview, in its entirety, will appear in the February 28 issue of MIDRANGE Systems]

Andrew Seybold is an industry analyst specializing in the convergence of mobile computing and wireless communication technologies, or what he calls,” connected mobility.” His newsletter, Andrew Seybold’s Outlook (www.outlook.com (new window)), explores the latest trends and developments in this area.

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