Brokerages Put Plenty of Stock in Wireless Devices

By Matt Hamblen, Computerworld |  Networking

Those Darned Tiny Screens

Security isn't a hardship in building wireless trading applications; what brokerages developing wireless applications find most taxing is creating an acceptable user interface for all types of devices, said brokerage officials.

"Most phones have a limited number of lines of display and very limited input/output with numeric keypads," said Glenn Tongue, president of DLJdirect.

DLJdirect is looking forward to more voice activated phones as well wider use of touch screens, something available today with the Palm VII and some other handhelds, for example.

Charles Schwab & Co. in San Francisco relies heavily on finding everyday people to test applications in its laboratory, including people who have never traded or used wireless devices, Schwab officials said.

"If vendors can solve the interface problem with the numerical keypad of the phone, that's going to help," said Jim Ditmore, CIO at Ameritrade. "Voice recognition for phone will overcome the keypad concerns and Third Generation wireless color will help users see graphs and other graphics," he added.

"Once you get outside Wall Street and Silicon Valley, it's hard to find people excited about trading stocks while riding the bus," said Carl Zetie, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass.

Zetie said some brokerages are hesitant about offering wireless because they are worried that the return on investment won't be there.

But other analysts said they agree with the brokerages already in the mix that adding the service will bring in new customers or provide more trades.

"Even if an established customer makes two more trades a month because of wireless, that's valuable," said Jack Gold, analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Westboro, Mass.

Charles Schwab & Co. said it expects half of its trading to be conducted over wireless devices in three to five years, though it won't disclose how many wireless users it has now or expects then. Yet this early Internet leader lost the initial wireless round to Fidelity.

"Back in 1998, Fidelity was considered so stodgy after Charles Schwab & Co. had run rings around them on the [wired] Internet, but Fidelity saw the potential of wireless and started off with Research in Motion pagers and now has even partnered with a number of carriers to expand services," said Ed Kountz, an analyst at TowerGroup in Needham, Mass. "Fidelity is definitely the most successful in not only identifying with this cutting edge technology, but for doing a lot to get content out there on all kinds of handheld devices."

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