WAP technology is boring and mobile phone users would be better off with the Japanese alternative technology, called iMode, a panel of industry figures has said.
David Potter, chairman of Psion, told business leaders at Europe's Seventh Annual CEO Summit in London: "While WAP is very worthy, it is also a little boring. iMode is really interesting, offering entertainment, messaging, transactions, games and screensavers, and is inexpensive."
The iMode service, from Japanese phone provider NTT DoCoMo, is a wireless Internet system based on a cut-down version of HTML and a packet-based wireless protocol. At the end of last month, NTT said it had 6.92 million subscribers for iMode in Japan, and is adding 20,000 a day.
Thomas Ramsey, a partner at law firm Squires, Sanders and Dempsey, rubbed more salt in WAP wounds, adding: "iMode is doing phenomenally well and could give WAP a run for its money in Europe."
The news deals a further blow to the WAP movement, following recent criticism from analysts that the technology is overhyped. Ovum warned last month that mobile phone users have formed expectations that are out of touch with reality and WAP operators risk a customer backlash. The analysts also predicted that WAP will no longer exist as independent technology by 2003 to 2005.
One reason for iMode's success is that NTT is using packet-switching technology rather than the circuit-switched technology used on European mobile networks. Packet networks are faster, and users can be billed by the amount of data downloaded rather than by the duration of the connection.
Packet networks will launch in Europe later this year.
"The key advantages for iMode is the packet-switched network. It enables an easier, faster and efficient way for data transmission, and that is why it is so successful," said Michele Mackenzie, an analyst at Ovum.
However, the introduction of packet-switched networks in the UK will enhance the phone users' experience of WAP in terms of speed, said Mackenzie, adding that she had seen nothing to suggest anyone in Europe is looking to adopt iMode.
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