March 23, 2006



Posted: 01.04

Lessons in Entertaining

Enterprise wireless data vendors shouldn’t be scared off by the entertainment industry’s arrival on the scene.
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By Antony Bruno

CTIA held its newly renamed Wireless IT & Entertainment conference this past October, and much hay was made about the expanded focus of the show to include consumer-focused entertainment content and applications.

Those who’ve been involved in the wireless data business for years are pleased that the industry has finally begun to attract the kind of mainstream attention long sought after by players throughout the value chain, but wonder whether consumer-based entertainment apps are stealing the thunder from the potential of enterprise-grade wireless solutions.

But those focused on the enterprise space should in no way see entertainment as a threatening development, but rather should view this as an opportunity for growth and a chance to learn from current successes.

Exactly which market—consumer or enterprise—will be first to adopt wireless data services has been a matter of speculation since the earliest days of the industry. Wireless data represents the convergence of two industries that saw different adoption patterns over the course of their respective evolutions.

Wireless voice services first took hold in the enterprise market, as mobile workers saw immediate benefit to being in contact with the main office at any time and had the corporate dollars to cover the then-high cost of connectivity. But as the cost of wireless devices and airtime fell, and as the perceived utility of wireless communications spread, the consumer market took notice in a big way.

Many felt this adoption path would repeat itself with wireless data, but while the earliest adopted wireless data services were workforce applications, the growth curve in the enterprise market remained relatively flat.

What we are seeing instead is an adoption model more similar to that of the commercial Internet experience, where consumer-facing applications drove traffic at first. This continues today as innovations in such technologies as instant messaging and P2P file sharing see consumer traction first and are only now becoming incorporated slowly into the enterprise space.

What’s important, though, is that consumer users of wireless are as addicted to the experience as corporate users are of e-mail or Web search engines. It’s clear that growth in one area leads to growth in the other.

As such, the many companies focused on the wireless enterprise space should see this explosion of interest in consumer-based wireless entertainment applications as a positive step. As awareness of wireless data grows among consumers, those same users will begin to see how such utility could be put to use in the enterprise space. We’ve long said that one of the primary obstacles to greater enterprise adoption of wireless data was a simple lack of awareness on the part of the corporate decision makers.

And that’s where the last piece of the puzzle comes in. We expect to see growth in the wireless entertainment space explode in the next year as content owners begin to actively promote their new wireless utility directly to their consumers via their own marketing and advertising campaigns. While it certainly helps for the wireless industry to advertise its data capabilities, we’ll all get a whole lot more traction on it when such names like MTV, Disney, Fox (NewsCorp) and others start marketing their wireless initiatives.

For the enterprise content space to reach the same level of hubbub, the big gorillas in enterprise software will have to do much the same.

—Antony Bruno is assistant VP of Wireless Internet Development
at CTIA.
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