Magazine Article | May 1, 2001

Not Ready For Prime Time

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

There is no shortage of vendors offering wireless technology solutions to your company. But, is this the best time to be jumping into a market that is still developing?

Integrated Solutions, May 2001

Having attended my fair share of industry trade shows and conferences, I'm never really surprised by too much of what I see and hear at them. Some vendor booths are understated and classy. Others, well, they seem to have skipped right over the obvious and ventured into the realm of gaudy. Looks aside, I've never been with a gathering of vendors or end users that weren't passionate about their technology and the space they think they fill in this ever-changing industry. There's a temptation - after listening to all the vendor pitches and end user testimonies - to unconditionally buy into what everyone is saying. After all, these are informed people. All of them can't be making predictions that are as accurate as Jeanne Dixon's.

Wireless Technology: "You're Trapped"
While I like to think I have the gift of perspective, Internet World Wireless 2001 in New York this past February threw me for a loop. Either, I lost my ability to discern hyperbole from fact-based predictions, or what I was hearing at Internet World Wireless 2001 will actually come to fruition. After some reflection, I have opted for option two. (Besides, this option allows me to continue to not question my faculties.)

Amidst all the interviews, one assertion still stands out. And, I believe it adequately portrays the truth about the growth and adoption of wireless technology in North America. An executive from a wireless platform company more than suggested that businesses will be forced to make investments in this type of technology. "You're trapped. It's that simple," he stated. "It's just like Internet technology five years ago. You could have pretended the Internet was not going to be that big, but then you would have been lying to yourself. It's the same with wireless. It's going to be a critical technology for all businesses moving forward. You have no choice. You're trapped into making an investment in this technology."

What To Do? What To Do?
No matter how you describe your company's current situation - trapped or forward-thinking - you are most likely eyeing an investment in wireless technology. Now, the question is where to spend your money. Vendors at Internet World Wireless 2001 were hawking solutions that varied widely in price - from as low as $10,000 to as much as $500,000 or more. The common thread among almost all wireless companies at the show was a lack of referential end users. With the exception of Aether Systems (Owings Mills, MD), no wireless vendor I spoke with had a substantial list of end user installs. Either the vendors were under non-disclosure agreements with their customers, or they didn't have any references at that point.

This overall scenario could really put your company in a bind. Assuming you recognize the fact that you have to make an investment in wireless technology, what are you looking at? You have a market filled with vendors offering solutions with drastically different price points. These same vendors also come up short in terms of end user references.

Unlike football where your options are usually punt or go for it, you have a middle ground. First, do plenty of homework. Spend the money to get on a plane to attend a couple of wireless shows or conferences. Second, look at wireless as a tactical investment at this point. Test drive the technology within a key department at your company, such as sales.

It's critical to position your company for the future right now. But, positioning your company and writing a check are two very different things.

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