Phone makers and network operators are more concerned with pushing
technologies that will maximise their profits than meeting the mobile
needs of firms, says Daniel Robinson
If the recent 3GSM show in Cannes is anything to go by, then the market
for next-generation phones is far from sewn up. Just as everyone in the
mobile industry thought that some kind of shake-out would make things
simpler, along came an announcement or two to throw everything open
Just a few weeks ago, there were doubts over the future of
the Symbian smartphone consortium, after Psion announced it planned to
sell its stake to Nokia. The move would leave Nokia as the largest
single shareholder, and prompted fears that other phone makers might
withdraw their support from the cross-vendor platform.
It seems these
fears were groundless. Nokia would need more than a 70 percent share
before it could dictate policy to the other shareholders. And, as if to
counter the doomsayers, Symbian revealed it has gained more licensees in
the Far East. Version 8.0 of the Symbian platform, announced at 3GSM,
also seems likely to see the software move down from high-end phones
such as Sony Ericssons P900 into less expensive handsets that will have
a broader appeal.
Meanwhile, Symbian faces competition from a
newly revitalised Palm platform. Now that PalmSource has been set free
from its parent company, it is forging ahead with developments that
could see Palm software become more attractive for both high-end
smartphones and cheaper handsets.
A new entry into this market is
the SavaJe OS. This Java-based platform is backed by funding from mobile
operators Vodafone and Orange, and is reportedly regarded as suitable
for the requirements of mobile operators.
But there seems to be a
danger here mobile operators are on the lookout for handsets and
technologies that suit their agenda, which doesnt always match up with
the needs of their business customers. Take UK 3G operator 3, which has
used mobile video calls as the star attraction of its service, rather
than focussing on the high-speed mobile access to corporate data that
businesses are crying out for.
Most smartphones on the market
also feature built-in digital cameras. Why? While there may be some
business applications that could use this technology, the real reason it
is there is to help carriers boost their revenue by encouraging
consumers to send photos to their friends.
Both the mobile
operators and the handset makers could do worse than to follow the
example of Research In Motion (RIM). Its BlackBerry handsets and
wireless service proved popular with businesses because they met a
demand for mobile email, but didnt have any unnecessary bells and
whistles. BlackBerry devices also feature a keyboard for easier data
input, something that PDA makers seem to have been blind to since the
introduction of the first Palm device in the mid-1990s.
Wireless seems to be on the right track with its Microsoft-based Voq
smartphone. This has a hideaway keyboard, but also comes with an email
client that can link up to corporate groupware servers, and it has a
built-in virtual private network (VPN) capability.
from 3GSM is that there is still plenty of room for innovation. However,
the mobile industry needs to focus more on what firms want. At the end
of the day, businesses dont care what platform or mobile brand they use,
so long as it meets their needs.