CTIA: Executives Stress Need For Wireless Application Development

Revenue generated from wireless data services is set to reach more than $1 billion in 2003, according to theCTIA. In the past six months alone, non-voice, or data services, generated $500 million.

Text messaging was held up as a primary example of an effective application for business as well as consumer users. More than $1 billion SMS messages are sent per day in the United States, compared with 30 million SMS messages per day in June 2001, the CTIA said.

Several executives presenting at the show said the industry needs to start encouraging independent software developers to write applications for wireless platforms, particularly business applications.

Unlike the consumer market, executives at the show said there are not enough applications that address the needs of professionals.

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That is not to say that applications that solve real-world problems do not exist, said Chris Galvin, chairman and CEO of Motorola, offering the example of a Chinese character recognition application called Thai Chi for cell phones.

"This simple application solves a profound problem," he said

In Europe, 50 percent of wireless revenue is already generated from non-voice data services, said Jorma Ollila , chairman and CEO of Nokia.

"[The wireless industry] is now getting the interest of independent developers because we now have the platform, and many of these developers are coming from the PC industry," said Ollila.

Ollila said Nokia is working with IBM, Oracle and Research In Motion (RIM) to address the needs of business users on the road. "Up until now, the industry hasn't done a very good job of bringing something that really hits the core in terms of usability for business users," he said.

Several players in the mobile and wireless space are developing programs to aid ISVs.

Microsoft, for example, launched Mobile to Market, a program that gives ISVs the opportunity to test and certify applications for the mobile environment. Mobile to Market currently has about 100 applications in a catalog that is downloadable to Microsoft's Pocket PC. Orange, a mobile telco based in London, has made the catalog available to its customers, and Microsoft is in similar negotiations with Sprint PCS, said Ed Suwanjindar, lead product manager of the mobile devices division at Microsoft.

Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson formed a partnership with IBM to develop custom applications for enterprise customers to be used on Sony Ericsson's P800 integrated phone and PDA. The company is also working with AppForge to make it easier to port Visual Basic applications to the P800. With AppForge's application, developers can write a single mobile application using Visual Basic and run it on Symbian, Palm OS and Pocket PC devices.

"The P800 is a Symbian-based device so it's easy to take an application written for the Pocket PC and rewrite it for the P800,"said Steve Walker, director of product marketing at Sony Ericsson. "The key is making it easy for developers to write applications for many platforms and devices."