Wireless: Other Platforms, Other Rules

How should CFOs in the United States view the wireless Web revolution taking place in Europe? As coming attractions.

But not all is rosy in WAP world. According to wireless data consultancy Mobile Lifestreams (www.mobilelifestreams.com), other protocols for wireless mobile Internet access (such as SIM Application Toolkit and Mobile Station Application Execution Environment) already exist. The consultancy also notes that setting up a WAP service on a handheld device could prove confusing. Further, Web surfers tend to stay online for a long time. Considering the cost of some wireless phone services, subscribers may be in for a nasty surprise when that first WAP phone bill shows up in the mailbox. —John Goff

Remove Wrenched Ankle

Making wireless Web sites out of corporate home pages is a lot like the kid’s game Operation. It’s not overly complicated, but it does require a deft touch to extract the right thing.

Experts say applications and Web-site content need to be thoroughly analyzed, as do the buying habits of customers. Although the interface on a wireless microbrowser is different from the interface on a regular browser, the online shopping experience should feel the same. The fact is, wireless online shoppers still want to do the kinds of things they do when they surf the Net on a PC — check out merchandise, compare prices, and place orders.

While some companies have the resources to devote to customizing their Web sites for wireless access, small and midsized businesses may need help. Toward that, several wireless Web outsourcers have set up shop recently. The latest, ViaFone (www.viafone.com), is a California-based application service provider that takes existing Web content and makes it mobile ready. ViaFone’s technology, which is based on its own Mobile Commerce Server platform, works with a number of devices, including WAP phones, pagers, and PDAs. Music etailer CDnow (www.cdnow.com) hired ViaFone to set up a system that allows mobile phone users to browse and purchase music online. In addition, CDnow wireless shoppers can listen to music clips over their cell phones.

Another non-PC Internet specialist, Everypath (www.everypath.com), was launched two years ago. Also based in California, Everypath relies on proprietary technology to ensure that Web sites can be accessed from wireless devices. Executives at Everypath say they can render a site for data devices in just seven days. His master’s voice takes longer: Everypath needs two weeks to create a Web site that responds to audio commands. —J.G.

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