San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
LAS VEGAS -Panelists at separate wireless seminars during CES outlined a future in which households will own multiple phones, each geared toward different uses.
During a wireless Web panel, participants agreed that competing methods of wireless-Web access-wireless phones and PDAs-can coexist, and they speculated on the rosy future in which people will own multiple wireless devices for different occasions.
"It all depends on the person and the application," said Randy Roberts, Nokia's director of emerging technology.
"People have different needs," said Chris Dunphy, Palm's director of competitive analysis. "People buy different types of cars and sometimes two cars per household, so we think people can accommodate multiple wireless devices." The crowd responded to this comment with hearty appreciation.
"If you're out on the town, you don't want to carry around a large-screen PDA," said Craig Peddie, general manager of Motorola's Lexicus division. "But if it's a business application, you can fit a PDA in your briefcase or your jacket pocket."
"The market will very much segment into different needs," added Jay Highley, Sprint PCS' business marketing VP. "You'll continue to see growth in products that can access entertainment, music, data and enterprise applications. All the different market segments will have products tailored to their needs."
The entertainment and enterprise segments are poised for major growth, the panel concluded, as products that offer multimedia functionality will saturate the market later in the year.
Panel members agreed unanimously that customer adoption would proceed in "baby steps." Wireless innovation will continue to outpace consumer adoption, so manufacturers and service providers must bring the customer along through marketing and education.
Undoubtedly, as wireless networks accelerate their data rates with 2.5G and 3G technologies, the potential for wireless Web access will grow.
During a luncheon presentation, Nokia president Kari-Pekka Wilska said, "We'll see different types of products, some for voice only, and those with greater storage will be a cross between a PDA and PC. Some devices will be designed for different purposes like video streaming, infotainment and gaming."
Mobile commerce, he added, "is going to be a big player with 3G." But "in the U.S., there are a lot of privacy and security issues to be resolved before we are willing to do electronic transfers of money. In Finland, I haven't written a check for years."
During the lunch, Motorola executive Jon Thode said he foresees a 3G future in which "we'll have operating systems running on handhelds with speech recognition and predictive text, as well as Java applications. As we move closer to the Internet model, consumers will be able to download applications off the Net or get services that they can create themselves."
Thode said he expects 3G service to deliver plenty of value to consumers. "It's important to understand the value proposition for consumers with 3G. With the [2G] iMode services in Japan, DoCoMo is teaching us a new business model, which may be a harbinger of new 3G services that allow multimedia, mobile media messaging and video postcards. In Japan, one of the most popular services is streaming 15-second video clips for entertainment."
Audiovox Communications president Philip Christopher said he believes every phone in the future will be Web-enabled, but "the carriers need to improve their networks first."
Bluetooth technology will play a role in this future, panelists said, although they were not sure exactly when. Said Wilska, "I don't want to sound pessimistic, but cost is always the issue. Bluetooth adds to the cost of the phone. The second thing is that Bluetooth has to be in multiple products before people will start to use it. And finally, we need to make the products user friendly."
Added Christopher, "If you add Bluetooth with voice recognition and a big color display to a PDA, the retail cost to a carrier becomes much greater. However, the carriers will be subsidizing these products because they want the airtime, so we are very optimistic that Bluetooth is going to be successful."
In the shorter term, wireless Web access hasn't been the killer app that many marketers foresaw. The consensus during the wireless Web panel was that the term "wireless Web" may have misled customers about current capabilities.
"People heard 'wireless Web,' and they thought they could access their wired content on a cellular phone," said Motorola's Peddie. "The WAP format is a terrific format for wireless data, but consumers' expectations exceeded what it could provide on a wireless phone platform."