Phone.com sees boom in Net-based handsets
Special to CNET News.com
November 30, 1999, 9:40 a.m. PT
Phone.com, the software developer for wireless devices, expects more than
half the world's future mobile phone subscribers to be connected to the
Internet, a senior executive said.
The firm, whose stock has surged more than 700 percent since launching in
June, expects Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) phones to start shipping
in serious volumes in the second quarter of next year, said Malcolm Bird,
the company's European managing director.
"The millions [of WAP phone unit sales] will come in the first and second
quarter of next year," he said in an interview.
Many industry forecasts expect mobile phone subscriptions globally to hit
the 1 billion mark in 2003, but some have forecast that the Internet-linked
share of the total will be more modest.
Formerly Unwired Planet, Phone.com was a driving force behind WAP--the main
software technology that links cell phones to the Internet--and has become a
rare dominant U.S. player in an industry where European firms as a whole are
ahead of the pack.
The WAP cell phone experience should be simpler than surfing on a personal
computer. "We're hoping many users won't ever know they were on the
Internet," Bird said.
Phone.com has stimulated the market through the royalty-free distribution of
a microbrowser--the software engine for a cell phone to navigate the
Net--and it is distributing technology for a wireless portal to cellular
Phone.com's customers currently total about 46 mobile operators, or 10
percent of the world's operators, through which it claims to reach 40
percent of world's mobile subscribers.
Just less than half of Phone.com's current commercial relationships are in
the trial phase, the company said.
Bird said the company, which has been developing mobile phone Internet
access technology since 1995 but has yet to log a profit, aims to capitalize
on its first-to-market advantage in the nascent business.
Global cell phone leaders like Nokia and Ericsson have licensed Phone.com's
browser for the U.S. market, although the companies also plan to develop
their own technology for the European market, competing directly with
Infrastructure manufacturers including Siemens, Alcatel and Motorola are
reselling Phone.com products, Bird said.