IBM launches wireless data initiatives at CTIA

IBM, through its Pervasive Computing Div. (PCD-Kansas City, MO), unveiled a number of initiatives at this winter's CTIA show that will strengthen the computing giant's presence in the wireless data-communications arena

New mobile devices will enable access to business information anytime and anywhere.

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

IBM, through its Pervasive Computing Div. (PCD-Kansas City, MO), unveiled a number of initiatives at this winter's CTIA show that will strengthen the computing giant's presence in the wireless data-communications arena. "Businesses are benefiting from an increasing number of new mobile devices and applications that allow for anytime, anywhere access to business information," says IBM PCD general manager Mark Bregman. "We're committed to ensuring that businesses worldwide benefit from IBM's experience in transforming enterprises into e-businesses as they extend into the wireless world."

PCD's strategy is to form partnerships with wireless carriers, providing secure access to service-provider business customers' core enterprise data from virtually anywhere using a variety of communications devices. Among the enterprise applications touted at CTIA were billing, customer relationship management solutions, multidevice management schemes, and e-business applications.

Among the partnerships announced this winter are relationships with AT&T, Nextel Communications, Sprint PCS, and Vodafone AirTouch.

IBM plans to combine its software and services with AT&T's wireless Internet-protocol (IP) network to supply real-time access to enterprise data and applications, including the Internet, intranets, and corporate databases. Mobile workers, for example, will be able to input sales orders directly into corporate databases using wireless devices; they will also be able to interact with internal business travel systems to make or change their travel plans.

Access to corporate applications

Wireless access to corporate applications will be based on existing Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) network technology, as well as forthcoming third-generation (3G) broadband data services being developed by AT&T that are based on the combined TDMS/GSM global standard called EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution).

"AT&T's CDPD network currently provides packet-based data services to customers with the benefit of flat-rate, all-you-can-use pricing," says Kendra VanderMeulen, senior vice president of product development and strategy for AT&T Wireless Services. IBM will access the existing AT&T CDPD network as well as future high-speed 3G networks, with its new transcoding technology, which lets corporate databases be translated into appropriate formats for devices such as wireless phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and laptop computers.

Gary Cohen, general manager of IBM's Global Telecom-munications Industry unit, explains the company's strategy:

"E-business is going mobile. Over the next five years, more than 80% of new corporate applications will be designed for non-PC devices such as wireless phones. With always-on data access, we will meet another key need of our customers."

IBM's partnership with Nextel Communications (Reston, VA) will result in the launch this spring of new business services using Nextel Online Dial-up Service and the Nextel National Network. IBM's contribution will be Mobile Connect, a computing technology that lets handheld devices be integrated into corporate networks. Nextel is contributing access to its Internet-based service, Nextel Online, which provides enterprise voice, data, and messaging over the Nextel National Network. Nextel Online is accessed directly via Nextel handsets or through the company's Internet Website. Nextel business customers using the new service will be able to access their enterprise data in real time from anywhere on the Nextel National Network, without using a PC or workstation.

The IBM/Sprint PCS plan, which is scheduled to bear fruit early next year, will enable the business clientele of the Sprint PCS Wireless Web to send and receive corporate e-mail, access schedules and contact information, and otherwise perform personalized enterprise applications on Sprint PCS Internet-ready phones.

Last fall, Sprint PCS launched its Wireless Web Connection, a service permitting enterprise customers to connect to a corporate intranet or the Internet by attaching a cable to a laptop, PDA, or other handheld computing device and using a Sprint PCS phone in place of a modem. Once IBM has provided extensions to its existing enterprise software products-such as database, messaging, and device-management software-access to most of the same corporate information available using a computer will be retrievable on the display of a Sprint PCS Internet-ready phone, without the need for a cable or computing-device connection.

Increasing use of wireless

"Real-time data services will be the driving force increasing the use of wireless technology," says IBM's Mark Bregman. "IBM is helping companies worldwide extend their enterprise applications to new types of devices. A robust wireless network, such as the one from Sprint PCS, combined with enterprise-strength software and new hosting services from IBM, is essential for businesses to deliver wireless data services to their customers."

Internationally, IBM will be working with Vodafone AirTouch, which has selected the U.S. company to design, build, and manage an Internet portal for wireless devices. The IBM project will include mobile phones and PDAs from a number of vendors, including Nokia, Ericsson, and Palm Computing, as well as content from e-businesses such as Charles Schwab, Sabre, Travelocity.com, and InfoSpace.com.

Doug Elix, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Global Services, says, "We estimate that by 2003, more people will be connecting to the Web via a wireless device than through PCs. Wireless networks, such as the one from Vodafone AirTouch, have the potential to connect to devices such as vehicles, appliances, and vending machines. This capability, which IBM calls 'pervasive computing,' is essential for business-to-business and business-to-consumer wireless services."

Chris Gent, CEO of Vodafone, adds, "We are opening a new chapter in the development of the Internet, adding a fourth 'W' to the World Wide Web. From now on, it will be the World Wide Wireless Web." Vodafone's new wireless Web portal is expected to be launched this summer in Australia, Europe, and North America.

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