Friends Don't Let Friends Shop And Drive
I have a confession to make: I don't own a mobile phone. I think I may
be one of the last not to own one -- even my fourteen year-old cousin
sports a shiny new Nokia. I guess I find the whole mobile phone social
scene a bit annoying -- people chatting and driving (swerving), disclosing their entire lives
to passersby as they walk down the street, and even the ever-present
ringing of phones in restaurants and other public places. I still like to think of a mobile phone as an emergency
tool, not a social identity.
So, you can imagine my concern when I started to see more and more news
about m-commerce, or mobile commerce, initiatives. (Not that mobile phones are the only
way to partake in
m-commerce -- PDAs and laptops also play an important role.) I can't think
of a more noxious cocktail than America's appetite for shopping mixed with
their over-reliance on mobile devices, particularly phones. Is it really
necessary to combine the two?
My personal feelings aside, mobile commerce is coming. Frost &
Sullivan expect the world mobile commerce markets to reach $45 billion by
2005. As the Web moves to wireless, it's only
natural that e-commerce follow suit. It's the
next logical step in e-commerce. E-commerce has wormed its way into the wide world of mobile
communications, beginning with the advent of mobile financial
services and Web-enabled phones and PDAs.
Follow The Leader?
It's hard to say whether the United States or Europe will actually lead in the m-commerce revolution.
Europeans command the lion's share of the mobile market, due in great part to
acceptance of the GSM (Global System For Mobile Communications) standard,
which allows Europeans to use their phones throughout the continent.
According to a recent white paper from Datamonitor, good QoS (Quality of
Service), declining costs, and increased competition have also contributed to
this large mobile phone population. Having two of the world's
largest mobile phone makers -- Nokia and Ericsson -- located in the north
lends a helping hand to their dominant market share.
However, the United States leads the way in
Internet use -- meaning more homes and people are getting online. While
Europe's technological standards and developments may seem to place them
as the m-commerce leader, there are factors in the United States that may
lead to a larger m-commerce market at home rather than abroad. Datamonitor
points out several of these reasons:
- Single Language. (A hotly debated point, but let's just say
English is America's single language for argument's sake.) The single-language situation in the U.S. makes it easier to for application
vendors and content providers to market to a large population. In Europe, various languages make this task a bit
- Greater Internet Usage. Internet usage is higher in the U.S.,
which has resulted in a greater number of people purchasing online and
a dominant share of the e-commerce markets.
- Money And Talent. There's a greater abundance of both money
and intellectual talent needed to develop the m-commerce
infrastructure residing in the U.S. When push comes to shove, much of
the development is expected to be done in the States.
Whether or not m-commerce takes off in Europe or the U.S. first, the
fact remains that mobile communications is on the rise worldwide -- and
m-commerce isn't far behind. It's also important to note the mature mobile
communications market in Japan will play a key role in
m-commerce as, will China as their infrastructure and markets develop and
Buckle-Up For Safety
The idea of m-commerce is very appealing, especially for those who
find themselves wasting time in the car during a long commute, at the
airport waiting for their flight to come in, or with a very tight schedule.
However, like e-commerce, m-commerce comes with its share of security
concerns. With more and more customer and business information
flowing over wireless connections through cell phones, laptops, and PDAs,
the potential threat is huge. A recent Gartner Group news release recommended
the use of access controls on wireless devices, strong authentication, and
link encryption as proper security measures for safer and secure
m-commerce. As of now, fewer than 10 percent of wireless implementations
include these precautions.
Should you expect to see more swerving cars in the
middle of rush hour traffic? Let's hope not -- shopping and driving can prove to be a
deadly mix. You should certainly expect easier ways to make purchases -- a nice convenience during the holiday rush or close to a loved
one's birthday or anniversary. Like e-commerce, m-commerce will probably also
experience some growing pains as more people "log on," so be
prepared for QoS issues.
The real question is whether or not m-commerce is ready for you. Will your information and transactions be secure?
Will it make your life easier? Will you be satisfied with the interface
and the support you receive? However you answer those questions, remember:
don't let friends shop and drive. Please.
Mia Carley welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.