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Feature Article
August 2004

Looking for the Next Killer App?


Everyone is looking for the next killer app. They wonder if it will be something wireless, something better than e-mail, and if it will change the way we use computers in the future. The reality is the next big killer app will be none of those things. In fact, the next big thing isn�t a killer app at all. It�s the killer �enabler.�


A killer enabler focuses on the individual user by allowing technology to be customized to create a unique killer app to each user�s unique needs and preferences. The next big killer enabler is likely to be an always-connected wireless/wireline solution that allows workers to be productive wherever they go. Whether it�s mobility at the campus level or all over the world, the infrastructure is there for complete mobility of voice and data applications that can roam network to subnet and LAN to WAN, (private to public), keeping the user connected the entire time, without even a hiccup.

For instance, you will be able to have a conversation using your laptop, PDA, tablet PC, or whatever device you want to use via a softphone (software that lets you have all the functionality of your desktop telephone on your mobile device). You might use an earpiece just like you do with your cell phone, and this device can replace your cell phone. If you choose to, you can have a single device that does it all, the footprint of which will continually shrink.

With the development and availability of these wireless communication enablers, it might even be considered just a habit to utilize a wired phone today, especially within the corporate world. There are no obvious reasons why companies have not yet switched over to wireless phones. Doing away with cables and wires saves money and enables users to have more flexibility. Whether you think you need it or not, technologies that support mobility will change the way we live and work.
Integrating devices and applications just makes sense. You will be able to talk on this softphone and access data on your device, whether you are at your desk or in the conference room at your company�s campus location. Without disconnecting, re-authenticating, and reconnecting, you will be able to go out to your car, drive to a client meeting, first stopping off at Starbucks for a caffeine fix, and then arrive at your client�s office, while staying connected the whole time. Hopefully, you won�t be reading e-mail while you�re driving.

You will be able to check inventory or access data while you are at your client�s office and actually perform transactions. Being always connected lets users transact business, not just get information. Adoption will be driven by the almighty dollar, not some elusive desire to use technology for technology�s sake, so the ROI is essential to the emergence of the killer app. Companies developing the ingredients to the always-connected model are founded in the reality that providing customer service and getting your job done requires mobility with connectivity, not one or the other, but both at the same time. They know the killer enabler must drive ROI, fit business practice needs, and give third-party developers the ability to support, expand, and customize applications. The real value is giving users the ability to create their own �killer app� empowering users to use technology how, where, and when they want to use it.

Many vertical markets are strong candidates for deployment. Industries like retail and education are poised to drive the always-connected model. They already use PDAs in many cases and are comfortable with being mobile. And new verticals will jump on the bandwagon. A good example is the medical industry. Doctors are inherently mobile. A doctor makes rounds, sees patients, eats at the hospital cafeteria, but spends very little time at his desk. Using a PDA that is always connected would allow a doctor to access patient information, send e-mail to pharmacies for prescriptions, and would also allow others to stay in contact with him or her.

For virtually any type of business, there is value to being able to extend the enterprise to the road. With the always-connected model, most of the data can reside at the office and be accessed by the person using the PDA or laptop when it�s needed. There is no reason to have all that data jam-packed onto a mobile device. Bandwidth � for the purpose of staying connected � is another barrier, but it is one that is being resolved in the public network, partially driven by the entertainment industry. If they can successfully download feature-length movies, then other data files are a cinch.

While it will start with vertical markets, most, if not all consumers will love this technology as well. As costs come down, we can expect horizontal acceptance. It will become very cost effective to have a single device that is unified on the LAN and WAN. In addition to helping to consolidate portable devices, you might also do away with your wired phone as well, because your softphone will go everywhere with you. From one device, users will be able to talk on the phone, access data, check e-mail, surf the Web, and even use GPS systems to get directions or figure out why they are lost. The only question is, are we really ready for the 24/7 electronic leash? If only we can learn to turn it off now and then.

Michael Durance is the vice president/general manager for Toshiba�s telecommunication systems division. For more information, please visit the company online at www.telecom.toshiba.com

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