Every technology goes through many phases as it evolves. It starts with market hype, where the media and leading-edge companies set lofty expectations for the benefits that this new technology will provide. If the market hype is successful, early adopters will start to use the technology to attract new customers to their business, with the expectation of increased profits. These early adopters usually help to bring on the next phase—reality. This is when companies realize either that the market is not ready for the technology or that the technology is not ready for the market. In either case, the result is a period of apprehension and reevaluation. This leads to a lull in the market, giving both the technology providers and purchasers an opportunity to mature. The result is technology that is now ready for mass adoption, that is finally able to meet the potential that was widely discussed several years prior. Mobile and wireless technology fits this evolution to a tee:
Irrational exuberance. In the late 1990s, companies could not say enough about the benefits that mobility would offer. Industry analysts predicted that within a few years hundreds of millions of people would be using wireless phones for all kinds of tasks such as Internet banking, purchasing goods, or sending text messages to friends and colleagues. Wireless networks would be pervasive, allowing for instant data access from anywhere, at speeds approaching that of wired networks, and devices would be powerful enough for advanced multimedia applications. This phase for mobile and wireless did not last too long.
Market reality. By the year 2001, the reality of wireless applications became apparent. Technology such as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) that promised to provide data access anywhere did not meet expectations. Wireless networks introduced new challenges such as limited coverage, low bandwidth, and high latency that proved to be difficult to overcome. Mobile devices did advance, but many of them were targeted at the consumer market, which turned out not to be quite ready for wireless data on a large scale. Improvements were required if the predictions were going to come true.
Mass adoption. After two years of technical advances and modest growth, we are finally reaching the stage of mass acceptance of mobile and wireless applications. The wireless networks have improved with increased bandwidth and always-on data access; mobile devices have evolved to be enterprise-ready; and corporations have had an opportunity to make concrete plans for the introduction of mobility into their organizations. Early adopters showed that tremendous benefits could be achieved by implementing mobile applications, and it is now the time to realize those benefits.