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The Wireless Web

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The wireless web represents the combination of two innovative technologies— wireless communications and the Internet. The Cahners In-Stat Group predicts that the wireless data market will grow from 170 million subscribers worldwide in 2000 to greater than 1.3 billion in 2004.1 As a result, more than 1.5 billion handsets, personal digital assistants, and Internet appliances are expected to bring substantial benefit to consumers, producers, and the economy as a whole. This sample chapter from Wireless Web: A Manager's Guide explores the application of wireless technology to business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-employee (B2E) opportunities and examines how supporting technologies, including high-speed networks, synchronization, and voice recognition play a role in realizing the potential of the wireless web.

What Is the Wireless Web?

The wireless web represents the convergence of two technologies—the web, which has radically changed how we do business, interact, and entertain ourselves; and wireless technology, which through the cell phone has added a mobile dimension to e-commerce and enterprise computing.

Forecasts from the Cahners In-Stat Group are that the wireless data market will grow from about 170 million subscribers worldwide in 2000 to greater than 1.3 billion in 2004,2 while the sales of personal digital assistants (PDAs) and net-enabled cell phones are expected to rise from $10 billion in 2000 to $73 billion in 2005. 3

Wireless is not just the Internet without wires. To expect a desktop web surfing experience from the small screens on increasingly more portable mobile devices misses the point of what wireless web connectivity is all about.

In the early 1900s, the term "horseless carriage" was used to describe what is now the automobile. It wasn't so much about getting rid of horses as it was about opening up new modes of transport and urban life. Wireless isn't so much about cables, or the lack thereof, as it is about new dimensions of anytime-anyplace connectivity, freeing the Internet from location and time, and opening up new ways to extend existing applications as well as create new ones.

Figure 1.1 illustrates how wireless introduces new points of contact to the web—the servers, enterprise data repositories, and intranets that make up the fabric of the conventional wired web. Adding wireless devices such as cell phones, PDAs, pagers, and portable computers creates new opportunities for efficiently utilizing an increasingly mobile workforce and for building trusted and sustainable relationships with customers and suppliers.

Figure 1.1 Wireless connections extend the wired web.

Before looking at these opportunities in more detail, let's explore how wireless augments the potential of the Internet.

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