Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

The WAP Flap

One of the most widely covered issues in the wireless communications industry in 1997 was how to get wireless handsets to tap into the Internet. Several companies, including the three marketshare leaders, Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola, were pretty sure they had the answer in something called the Wireless Application Protocol, or WAP, which these companies helped develop as a nonproprietary, global technical specification. WAP would enable wireless service subscribers to access Web-based information from mobile or portable cellphones or PDAs.

It sounded pretty good at the time. WAP meant the wireless Internet was here. We could now access the Internet from just about anywhere and at anytime. You couldn't open a business publication or even many daily newspapers without readying something about this wonderful new development that would make our lives so much more productive. Using a WAP-enabled wireless device, you could check the traffic en route to the airport. If traffic is going to hold you up, you could check the train schedule and then purchase a train ticket online instead of driving. On the way to the airport, you could select your seat, check in for the flight, and reserve a special meal. You could also use WAP for message notification and call management, e-mail, mapping and locator services, weather alerts, news, sports, e-commerce transactions, and banking services.

Cellular phone and other equipment manufacturers were drawn to WAP because it had the potential to generate the critical mass needed for them to open up new product and service opportunities in wireless communications—actually generate new revenue by getting people to spend more time on their cellphones. Network operators supported WAP because it seemed to have minimal risk and investment, and they thought it would help operators decrease churn (keep people from switching wireless carriers, usually for a cheaper plan or more free "airtime" hours), cut costs, and increase revenues by improving existing value-added services and adding new services.

It looked like it couldn't miss, especially with so many of the top telecom companies teaming up to develop and promote the technology. So, why did so many industry analysts and users start referring to WAP as "What A Pain?" And why have there been so many articles like the one in Wireless Week that started with sentence, "Is the Wireless Application Protocol dead?" under a headline, "Warning to WAP: Reinvent Or Waste Away."

David Haskins, the managing editor of the online AllNetDevices news service, wrote in July 2000: "Will consumers embrace WAP or is it just another example of over-hyped BWC (Because We Can) technology that the public will ignore?"

Another industry magazine, America's Network, was equally uncharitable after conducting a "WAP Test Drive." It wrote, "Using a WAP service is like using the Internet in 1995. You know it's a great idea and you really want to try it out. But when you actually test it, you find that you don't really want to do it again."

Phone.com, a leading proponent and early WAP pioneer, claimed that 100,000 software developers had registered for its WAP developer program and more than 500 companies were actively participating in the WAP Forum, formed in 1998, presumably spending millions collectively to bring WAP-based products to market. But few people were actually using WAP. And those who were, weren't exactly thrilled by it.

In its defense, some analysts and industry supporters suggested that WAP offered a different paradigm for accessing the Web from a PC in the office or at home. That's true, but it got more complicated, with highly publicized complaints that data retrieval was slow, that applications and services were lacking, that WAP was often difficult to navigate, and that cellphone and PDA screens are simply too small for any reasonable text-driven application. The Nielsen Norman Group said after conducting a survey in London, that WAP usability is "failing miserably." Nielson Norman said, "Companies shouldn't waste money fielding WAP services that nobody will use while WAP usability remains so poor. Instead, they should sit out the current generation of WAP while planning their mobile Internet strategy." The WAP Forum, the technologies' support group, quickly pointed out that the study was based on only 20 users and "lacks the basis on which to draw any meaningful conclusions." It didn't help that another market study published by Forrester Research in mid-2000 pointed out that 72% of U.S. households have no interest in receiving data on their wireless phones and 75% are uncomfortable with wireless e-commerce. (As of the end of 2000, the WAP Forum estimated there were more than 40 million WAP-enabled devices in circulation. The organization could not say at the time how many of these handsets subscribers are actually using WAP, but they guessed that it was in the four to five million range.)

WAP took another public flogging in Europe when articles began to appear that anyone using a GSM phone (Global System for Mobile Communications is the digital cellular standard used throughout Europe and part of the United States) didn't actually need WAP. They could get similar results with SMS (Short Messaging Service), which is popular in Europe for delivering text to pagers.

The Meta Group, another market research organization, put WAP's principal developer, Openwave Systems, on the defensive when it reported that as many as 90% of corporate users that purchased WAP-enabled phones have abandonded the data capabilities of these phones. According to Meta, limited content, slow networks, and generally poor user ergonomics have not met the high user expectations and hype that accompanied WAP-enabled devices when they were first introduced.

WAP also faced competition in Japan from i-mode, a hugely popular wireless Internet-level system, developed by the country's largest mobile carrier, NTT DoCoMo. Introduced in the spring of 1999, i-mode at one point was adding more than 40,000 new subscribers a day in Japan and claimed 17 million users by the end of 2000. To call i-mode a cash cow for NTT DoCoMo is a disservice to the company: Just one of its many unbundled features, sending a cartoon to subscribers every day for a monthly fee of about $1, generates more than $120 million annually for NTT.

Like WAP, i-mode enables users to access e-mail and Internet services with wireless phones and computers. Unlike WAP, i-mode is based on packet data technology, which means that it is always online; you do not have to dial up every time you want access to the Internet or e-mail. Using packet technology also means that i-mode users are charged only for the information they receive, not for how long they stay online. (I-mode also represents a cultural breakthrough. It was bound to be a success, analysts like to point out, because in contrast to the United States, where PC market penetration is huge, the wireless Web is pretty much the only experience the Japanese have with the Internet.) The difficulties with WAP and the success of i-mode have led to growing interest in i-mode outside Japan, mainly in Europe. NTT DoCoMo could also expand the use of i-mode through joint ventures with U.S. wireless operators—AT&T Wireless has licensed i-mode, giving it a potentially strong jump-start in the United States—a particularly interesting prospect if WAP doesn't begin to gain wider acceptance in the United States. Some wireless carriers have talked about supporting both WAP and i-mode. Yet another possibility kicked around the industry is that WAP will be replaced by the Java programming language from Sun Microsystems, which abstracts data on bytecodes so that the same code runs on any operating system. In fact, i-mode will eventually allow users to tap into Java technology, providing even more services to i-mode subscribers.

Another issue lurking in the background, and one that doesn't instill a lot of confidence in wireless manufacturers who are asked to invest in these things, is, who owns the technology? While WAP has been originally promoted as an "open" protocol, Geoworks, a specialist in wireless data communications services and technologies, told the WAP Forum and its members in May 1999 that its patented technology is "employed as essential technology" in the WAP standard and that it planned to license this technology. Phone.com challenged Geoworks' patents as invalid. However, Ericsson, Matsushita Electric (the parent company of Panasonic), Toshiba, and others have lent some credibility to Geoworks' patent claim when they signed a cross-licensing arrangement giving them the right to use Geoworks' WAP technology.

This is also about content. Analysts believe that as the number of practical applications available to WAP users grows, WAP will begin to gain a following. WAP may also find broad acceptance as a sales representatives' automation tool with WAP-enabled phones for checking customer information, checking inventories, and tracking order status while on the road.

Can more than 500 companies be wrong? The jury (in this case, the market) is still out, but the same question is being asked about Bluetooth.

Is WAP an interim technology? Even many of the most objective industry observers don't believe so. WAP will continue to add popular features such as TCP/IP, multimedia, and color graphics, but WAP device owners will still have to contend with tiny keyboards and displays—at least until voice recognition technology and virtual displays, which magnify 2-inch screens into what appear to be 17-inch displays, make huge leaps into portable communications products.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020