Internet World: Nielsen Norman say it's OK to hold off on WAP

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From: Sally Khudairi (
Date: Fri Dec 01 2000 - 17:28:10 PST

Hmm. A year an a half after the public availability of Rohit's "W* Effect
Considered Harmful"[1], and the world is now comfortable saying that WAP may
not deliver what was promised.



Study Says Your Business Can Wait a Year on WAP
By Michael Cohn

While there's lots of potential in the mobile Internet, WAP
(Wireless Application Protocol) is not proving to be the best
way to get there. That's the conclusion of a report by the
Nielsen Norman Group ( ) on WAP

"Almost everything is a problem now," said principal Jakob
Nielsen. "The conclusion is not to fix any one thing, but to
scrap it and wait for the next generation of products."

His group sponsored a field study this fall of 20 WAP users
in London. Participants received WAP-enabled phones and were
asked to spend a week performing tasks such as reading news
headlines, checking the weather forecast, and looking up that
night's TV listings. They recorded their frustrating
experiences in a diary. Tasks that should have taken about 30
seconds required about two minutes. The report didn't blame
the phones. The wireless applications were the main culprits.
The TV schedule, for example, was organized by network rather
than time slot, so users needed to go to different parts of
the service to discover which shows were on at 8 p.m.

Nielsen Norman asked participants if they would be likely to
use WAP within one year, and 70 percent answered no. Negative
responses declined to 20 percent, however, when participants
were asked if they might use WAP in three years.

"Mobile Internet will not work in 2001, but in subsequent
years, it should be big," predicted the study. "We recommend
that companies sit out the current generation of WAP but
continue planning their mobile Internet strategy."

Another problem is that most wireless applications only send
information when the user requests it, which bogs down
information retrieval.

"That leads to long delays, and those delays confuse users,"
said Nielsen. "People pay for air time, so they get worried
about it. We're not just talking about slow, we're talking
about very slow, like watching grass grow."

One user said it would be less expensive for her to buy a
newspaper and throw away the pages she didn't need.

Although some acknowledged the basic validity of the study,
others found fault.

"The concern I have was that the study refers to the
technology, WAP, as being the problem as opposed to the
implementation of the specific applications," commented
Lee Wright, CEO of
( ), which helps developers
create wireless applications.

"There are people who can't drive a car, but that doesn't
mean cars are unusable," pointed out IDC group vice president
Iain Gillott. "That's why when we do a survey, we use a
sample size of thousands of people, not 20."

Nielsen, however, contended that his study has more validity
than surveys that just ask for opinions. "It's incredibly
interesting to discover what people have to say from hands-on
experience," he said. "That provides much more credibility
when they say they don't like it. They have felt it on their
own body, and even after a week it didn't feel too good."

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