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Europe is seeing a new order coming to fruition as the Net we know begins to detach itself from the PC and migrate to the mobile world. With this migration, developers are faced with new trials, and marketers, with fresh challenges. What they share is the lack of common standards around the globe and even on your doorstep.

Say, for instance, you're a marketer who has a fantastic, watertight idea for a mobile campaign. You brief your developers and get a nasty surprise when they inform you that only half of your campaign is executable.

Why? Standards. Or lack of them to be precise. Even in Europe, where we're all on GSM networks and we can all SMS quite happily to each other, there are obstacles at every turn when we try and communicate en masse via a mobile channel. Different devices with differing OS and platforms that respond differently to different types of messaging and coding...you get the idea!

For developers, this can be a nightmare scenario that obviously pushes the cost implications of any strategy whether it be m-CRM or advertising and promotional activity. Code tweaking for each different platform and OS, and content management for all devices, will have to be done to communicate to the wider mobile audience - not fun especially when you're on a tight budget and deadline. Bottom line: there are still no standards for mobile devices. A common framework of some sort is desperately needed, which brings me to my first "What's in for 2002" winner.

A technology that's looking as if it may bring together a wider developer audience in the mobile space is J2ME. There are three editions of Java today: the Micro (J2ME), the Standard (J2SE), and the Enterprise (J2EE) editions. Each one provides developers with an array of tools that best suit a particular type of product.

J2ME is ideal for developing apps on devices with limited memory space such as phones and pagers. Why is it a winner? The language is already familiar to a vast number of developers. No new learning equals easier development of apps, which equals speedier time-to-market.

WAP on the other hand lacked one crucial element. You couldn't just run with it. I nearly made this a contender for "What's out in 2002," but it saved itself, having gone through some turbulent economic climates and still survived although the scars are highly visible. It's not the great commercial success everyone was hoping for. However, it did dislodge some of the soft snow that turned into the avalanche called the "mobile Internet." Whose fault? Well, no one's in particular. It would be great to lay blame on the "visionary" marketing campaigns of mobile operators that gave false expectations to consumers. You could blame the lack of innovative applications that should have enticed the consumer.

Heck, you could even go as far as to blame the consumers themselves just because you're running out of parties to blame. It took many hits to the bow and it's still limping home. Some wonder whether WAP is whimpering because the take-up rate isn't as high as i-mode's or in line with analysts' forecasts. Fact is, there are over 18-million WAP users worldwide who pay a monthly fee and actually use services. There may also be a chance for the WAP standard to rejuvenate itself. It's true that the WAP spec keeps growing - with each step it gets closer to convergence with the Internet by adopting W3C and IETF-sanctioned standards.

A contender to WAP is i-mode, and it's fast becoming a threat. i-mode has now entered Europe, something the WAP Forum thought would never happen. i-mode users now have access to more than 40,000 i-mode sites, as well as specialized services such as e-mail, online shopping and banking, ticket reservations, and the like. NTT DoCoMo's i-mode network structure not only provides access to i-mode-compatible content through the Internet, but also provides access through a dedicated leased-line circuit for added security. Since February 1999, the service has acquired 28-million paid subscribers. And that's just in Japan. The remainder of 2002 and the first half of 2003 will determine just what reach i-mode will gain in Europe.

SMS is a definite "What's in for 2002." It has seen phenomenal growth during the last two years. In Europe, the technology is in place, allowing the majority of mobile operators to offer reverse billing for SMS messages to third-party content providers. This has become a highly successful way of charging for mobile content such as alerts, operator icons, and ringtones. SMS has become a highly useful m-CRM and mobile marketing tool.

According to the Mobile Data Association, over 900-million messages were sent in the UK in January alone. This represents a 300% increase from the previous year. There are several reasons why this explosion in use has come about. First is market size. It is estimated that there are 456- million GSM phones that can potentially use SMS. Second, the youth and business market: under-18s, on average, send 2.5 messages per day with 14-16 year olds sending three per day according to research. Within the business sector, the delivery of time-sensitive information is a key factor of usage. And third, it's damn easy and you don't have to wait 20 seconds for a connection.

Forecasted revenues of SMS are also impressive. Western European revenues are expected to steadily increase until 2005 when they will reach $10 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2000.

Who would have thought that this accidental application could have resulted in such figures? SMS is both popular and cheap and nearly everyone on a GSM phone can do it. Now if that's not penetration then I don't know what is. Since the explosion in subscriber numbers, SMS applications have also blossomed into a lucrative market space to be in.

Some predict that next-generation networks will kill off SMS. Not so. Rather than killing the technology, they will ensure not only its survival but also its evolution. What to look out for later this year and early next? In three letters, MMS. Think of MMS simply as high-premium messaging because if one thing is sure, it isn't going to be free!

Other things to watch for during the remainder of this year: mobile payment initiatives, advances in wireless video streaming, and disposable phones.

About Tom Dibble
Tom Dibble , a wireless entrepreneur, is a cofounder of
Global Wireless Forum, a forum dedicated to dealing with commercial, strategic,
and
technical issues on the evaluation of the wireless age in Europe and
the U.S.

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