Wireless World Awaits, Execs Say at Symbian Event

  • Paul Krill (Computerworld)
  • 16 February, 2000 12:01

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. (02/16/2000) - A futuristic world of wireless devices and wire-free Internet access was touted at the Symbian Developer Conference and Exhibition here Tuesday, with industry officials declaring that we are on the cusp of a new generation of computing and communications.

One IBM Corp. official, Mark Bregman, general manager at the company's Pervasive Computing group, suggested the real action in technology was to be found at the small conference here, rather than at the much larger Windows 2000 conference happening some 50 miles away this week in San Francisco.

"We really believe that the future is right here, with this group," Bregman said.

PCs will be in the minority as a vehicle for Internet access, Bregman said.

"For every PC being sold to access the Internet, there are three wireless devices being sold to connect to the Internet," Bregman said.

To foster development of wireless applications, IBM at the show announced plans to integrate its messaging and database middleware with Symbian-based smart phones and communicators.

Symbian Ltd. was launched in June 1998 to set wireless standards and to develop a market for wireless systems. The company is a joint venture between wireless system builders Ericsson, Motorola, Panasonic, and Psion. A key component of Symbian's efforts is the EPOC wireless device operating system.

Johan Lodenius, a senior vice president of product marketing at Qualcomm's CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) division, detailed anticipated wireless devices, ranging from a Dick Tracy-like wristwatch unit to wireless cameras, camcorders, and wireless modems in key chain and pen form factors.

Wireless communications in a glove also is envisioned, Lodenius said.

"I think we'll all be surprised in a couple years from now," at the breadth of devices, Lodenius said.

Conference attendee Lynn Moyers, a site director coordinating wireless device activities in Japan for PC BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies, said he did not see the technology vision as pie-in-the-sky.

"The big explosion [in wireless connectivity] first is going to be in Asia, followed by Europe," Moyers said. These places have not had the wired infrastructure of the United States, but they have had standards for wireless systems that the United States has lacked, she said.

"You'll be able to literally surf the Internet [with] your mobile telephones," Moyers said.

Colly Myers, CEO at Symbian, in London, detailed Symbian's plans to base its technology on existing standards such as Java, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and the Bluetooth low-power wireless networking specification.

"It's the convergence of computing and communications coupled with the Internet that has given birth to this new market opportunity," in wireless systems, Myers said.

Myers cited industry figures that predict that there will be 500 million data-enabled wireless devices shipped by 2003.

"Connecting all these clients to all those servers is going to challenge the skills of all the computer industry," Myers said.

Symbian Ltd., in London, is at