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Wireless: Still lacking innovation

The Yankee Group offers up a stark warning recently with the announcement that it believes the mobile data dreamers are suffering. They say that innovation in handsets has taken too long to arrive.

The Yankee Group, a research firm that really knows the wireless world, offered up a stark warning this week with the announcement that it believes the mobile data dreamers are suffering.

Suffering, it says, not just because the market is at saturation point, or indeed because of a lack of 3G services (remember them?), but rather because the industry as a whole has overlooked the development of new technologies and features for handsets. This, Yankee group argues, is one of the main problems behind the lack of mobile data services.

You might have thought that the wireless industry was a rotund innovator. After all, phones have got increasingly smaller, more useful, more resilient - even colourful. But this last 'innovation' along with the introduction of integrated digital cameras, has arguably taken far too long.

Now of course these technologies are appearing and, Yankee argues, the success of digital cameras and attractively priced MMS services (Multimedia messaging services) will have a profound impact on the adoption of new services from the wireless data service vendors.

The introduction of these new wireless handset features, colour, MMS and cameras, are part of what Yankee identifies as a three fold upgrade cycle. The next piece, it believes, will be the addition of the moving image. Add all of this together and what do you have? A fairly dodgy industry that has been sitting around believing its own hype for way too long? Possibly. But also a decent amount of potential.

That doesn't mean that the wireless industry is suddenly going to be bucking itself out of the red however, so apologies to all of you disillusioned investors that are still waiting for a pay-back, because as you may have noticed there are other problems that need tackling too.

Wireless data services and their take-up depend on a number of factors. Firstly, they need a network that is capable of handling data efficiently (still waiting), then they need handsets that are capable of delivering weighty applications to enable the transference of data in a multitude of forms (just about there). Thirdly they need the applications themselves. Here again we have a slight problem. Yankee points out that one of the biggest problem facing developers of wireless applications is a lack of dominant standards.

Certainly standards are emerging, WML, BREW, xHTML, SMS/EMS, but which one to back, without destroying the financial backbone of the development company, can be a confusing task. And that slows things down further. In plain English, therefore, we've still got a long way to go before we can even glimpse wireless data nirvana, so sit tight.

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