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Home Page Editorial
(February 21, 2001)

From Editor's Desk...
"Starting in mid year of 2000, we saw the dot com startups feeling the wrath of the unwary stock market. The financial pundits explained that the industry could not deliver the profitability. Then came the information technology infrastructure companies which got their stock evaluations brought to earth. However, they left the telecommunications and optical networking stars like Nortel intact until last week when even Nortel was forced to tell the truth. We do not think that you can blame the US economy entirely for the drop in stock prices. There never was structural justification for the prices that investors were willing to pay for these companies, including Nortel, Cisco, and AOL. We should lay the blame where it belongs i.e. on manipulators of the market and gullibility of individual investors. 

What can our industry learn from this sudden but expected turn of events? Will wireless and mobile computing be the next industry in this trend? First of all, we do see strong fundamentals in demand for wireless-based services during the next ten years. Wireless revolution will happen for sure because it meets one of the most important needs in human and business behavior. However we also see a lot of industry rationalization coming in 2001 and 2002. No industry is immune to the manipulations of the investment bankers and stock market. Uninformed investors are taken in by rosy projections by PR companies and business development professionals who do not fully understand how emerging technology gets adopted, how long the selling cycle is, how long it takes to implement new technology, how people adopt new business processes and how whimsical consumers are.  Therefore, we only stand by the potential of future growth in wireless and mobile sector but we do not stand by individual forecasts which we find aggressive. Also time lines for implementing the infrastructure for nation-wide coverage, especially in North America are unrealistic. Europe and Japan will be ahead of North America by at least two years. We, at MobileInfo.Com, do not accept the simplistic methodology employed by many forecasters who depend on remote surveys as the basic method of predicting future trends. Many of these interviewers have never implemented technology projects in this space and do not understand what it takes to introduce emerging technology. They do not probe their interviewees and lead them to the answers that their clients want to hear. Nor do they take into account technical difficulties, economic trends and the limitations in the capital market. This truth must come home soon. To cut the argument short, we see longer durations for wireless Internet and mobile commerce to become mainstream.

We are also disturbed by copy-cat and me-too mentality of startup vendors. It appears from myriad of press releases that we get daily as a website that every mobile computing company wants to allow mobile users to access corporate data or online catalogs anytime anywhere on smart phones. Where is the differentiation? Where is the domain expertise about customer's vertical industry and the knowledge about how it does business? Everybody thinks that consumers are waiting anxiously to receive coupons and information about their client's products on cellular phones while they are driving on the highway at 70mph. We think that consumers will first use only action-oriented applications (stock-trading) and indulge in only those buying activities which are done on the spur of the moment e.g. go to a movie, buy entertainment tickets and reserve a seat at the restaurant. In a second phase, when younger generation, in whose daily life the Internet is an important medium, takes center stage, mobile commerce will take off. That will be 8-10 years hence.  Until then, there will be gradual but steadily increasing growth only. May be, we can learn from Aesop's fable - it was the slow and steady tortoise who won the race and not the perky and fast hare who slept on the way. 

We must be selective in our wireless pursuits. We must use fundamental business principles. We must focus on our core strengths. We must add value for our business customers and consumers - it does not matter whether it is business related or personal pleasure-related. In this context, I-Mode  model will work so long it meets innate human desire to communicate via pleasure. Is voice not another form of that desire?  We must also remind business startups to listen to their intuitive business judgment as much as they do to the prodding of VCs. If you have a choice, go for the VC who adds value and understands the market well. If it is a pure investment play, they will drop you with the first sniffle of the market. 

Finally, let us remember that new and emerging technology projects are affected first whenever economy turns downward trend and budgets get cut. That starts the ball rolling and both good and bad companies suffer. We are not saying that this can happen. We are saying that that this will happen in our industry as well. Why should it not, if we think and behave like our brethren in other IT sectors? We are not a privileged class."  - Chander Dhawan, Your Site's Managing Editor & Principal Consultant

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