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3G and Smartphones: Cautious Optimism

Has 3G finally arrived? If the recent 3GSM World Congress is any measure, the answer is yes. Billed as the world's premier mobile event, it attracted nearly 1,000 exhibitors and more than 50,000 attendees, up from 34,000 the previous year.

I'm also impressed by the progress made in recent years by service providers and equipment manufacturers, a product of multibillion- dollar investments. Wide-area wireless service levels have clearly improved, which opens the door to innovative mobility applications.

However, the business value for most organizations is still tenuous. Mobile e-mail is a big win for some, but probably not most users. And beyond e-mail, 3G is more a promise than reality. Although there are advancements among device and middleware vendors trying to make application mobilization a reality, most organizations are still struggling with basic issues involving device procurement and provisioning, management and user support.

That said, I believe mobile computing devices, and smartphones in particular, have a bright future. The devices themselves will rapidly mature, with enhanced interfaces and improved wireless connectivity. Applications and content also will improve as the critical mass of smart devices increases. And we'll see inherent improvements in the backend servers and applications that allow for the easy delivery of content.

The future won't happen overnight, but it will happen.