Not long ago, the buzzword in wireless was "data." It was heralded as the driving force behind the migration to 3G. There was just one problem: Making consumers support this migration would take more than promises of access to lots of data. Something had to encourage them to fork out the necessary bucks for new products.
Luckily for the industry, a missing part of the puzzle made its way onto the scene. Known as Short Message Service (SMS), it has in many ways become the training wheels for data. It introduced many consumers to the idea that access to data could be a good thing.
During his CTIA Wireless I.T. keynote address this past October, CTIA President Tom Wheeler echoed this trend. Citing a recent study, he noted a 60% increase in data-capable devices from last year, and indicated that 65% of all wireless users now use data. Even more impressive, though, is the following statistic: In June of 2001, there were a total of 30,000 SMS messages sent. In June of 2002, there were roughly 1 billion SMS messages sent. By anyone's calculation, that's a staggering increase.
Clearly, SMS messaging has whet the appetite of current and prospective consumers alike. So what's next? If the industry luminaries have gotten it right, part of the answer will lie with something called wireless entertainment. In this space, the use of data focuses on how consumers want to spend their time, rather than how they can save time. Do they want to be entertained by a wireless home-theatre system in the comfort of their own home? Or do they wish to play games on a wireless device while riding the train to the office?
These questions will help define the applications geared toward consumers in the coming months. Vendors are certainly working hard to carve out a wireless-entertainment space for themselves. Mazingo.Net, for example, now supports the new Palm Tungsten T handheld computer. For Palm handheld users, that means access to everything from full-length movies and TV shows to sports and comics. Additionally, companies like Digital Bridges are making a name for themselves as creators and distributors of mobile-entertainment solutions.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Whether one application in the entertainment space will ever be identified as the "killer app" is debatable. Yet it does seem certain that wireless entertainment will be the vehicle used by many wireless-device providers and network operators to reach consumers. It will help to convince them that they cannot live without data. Send me your thoughts at [email protected]