December 14, 2000, 4:40 PM — Today's bonus word is wireless. If you add this word to the mix of a Web
project, it suddenly becomes hot! Say "wireless" and watch venture capitalists sit up
and take notice of your ecommerce plan. It's no longer boring old ecommerce, it's
m-commerce -- m as in mobile. In some cases, it seems people are
practically drunk on the potential for wireless.
Will there be a hype hangover like those that followed the initial excitement over
Java and XML? Probably so. Here's my simple remedy to avoid the worst effects:
Watch Star Trek.
Huh? How can watching a Star Trek episode help forestall wireless hype
hangover? Well, it's simple: Star Trek shows people interacting with data in
environments beyond their desks in a logical way. Sure it's science fiction, but it's
On these shows, people tend to use information systems in one of three ways. First,
they sit at a console, just like a person sitting at a computer at work or at home here
on present-day Earth. They interact by means of keyboard and voice, browsing and
manipulating large volumes of on-screen data in formats ranging from text to voice to
The second way Star Trek personnel access information is by walking around
with a tablet or similar device and entering information as they work. This is no
different from today's mobile worker using a laptop, handheld, or palmtop while in the
Lastly, when stuck on a planet or away from their stations, crew members on Star
Trek utilize their communicators to talk to a computer and ask it for information.
This shows how the wireless Web will really work.
By the Star Trek standard, today's wireless Web really doesn't work very
well. Just try shoving a Web page onto a three-line, 12-character display with no
graphics. It's not exactly the functional equivalent of a Starfleet communicator badge.
Yet this is the minimal configuration for a Wireless Application Protocol data-capable
phone as defined by the specification set by the WAP
Forum. Even when using a large-screen device like a href="http://www.neopoint.com/products/index.asp">NeoPoint 1000 or a href="http://www.nokia.com/phones/7110/index.html">Nokia 7110, you'll find that the
wireless Web is only slightly more exciting than Gopher was in 1992.