COMPUTERS: 2004 PREDICTIONS

MANILA, January 3, 2004 (STAR) Txt in d City By Patrick R. Garcia (BIDSHOT WIRELESS SERVICES) - Despite all the good cheer and seasonís festivities which tend to make me lethargic toward any type of work, this is one of my favorite times of the year to be writing. It seems that everyone with an opinion publishes a list of what he thinks lies ahead, thus unsurprisingly falling into the writerís seasonal most common topic, "My Predictions." In the spirit of the Yuletide season, I will provide my 2004 Top 10 forecast.

1. Mobile number portability will be imposed. After much resistance by US carriers, the Federal Communications Commission has finally implemented mobile number portability last Nov. 24. I expect this pro-consumer regulation to be implemented by our very own NTC with the support, of course, of vote-hungry politicians. Well, the increased competition among the carriers to keep their subscribers should be good to lower both personal and enterprise communication costs.

2. The camera phone will sell below P10,000. I looked back at my 2003 predictions and I mentioned an MMS-capable phone would go below P10,000. It did. At the pace technology is developing and the need for carriers to have their subscribers increase usage of high-tariff services alongside slowing subscriber growth, I definitely see camera phones below P10,000.

3. The further convergence of e-mail and the mobile phone. PC penetration will never come close to the number of mobile users, and as such, I see the rollout of an easy-to-use and cheap service which will provide you an e-mail account, deliver your e-mail to your mobile phone, and even offer you free Internet bandwidth. Storage and bandwidth are sunken costs anyway, and there is so much under-utilization, so why not just give it away?

4. Mobile PDA devices will remain a niche. Despite how cool it looks and all the hype, no device that tries to integrate four or more main functions will ever appeal to more than a niche of the market. All these functions will never work well, trust me. The driver for adoption is always a primary purpose like pure SMS or voice; everything else is only secondary that contributes to the value of the product.

5. The peso will go over-the-air. Just lately, we have seen the introduction of P30, P25 and even P10 load being transferred overóthe-air. If this worldís first is possible, then the exchange of any amount from person to person or P2P should be around the corner. Finally, an easy stand-alone and no-set-up payment solution.

6. TXT gambling will begin. Iíve heard many groups in the last few years bragging that they had gotten the franchise but to no avail until now. With the countriesí ballooning deficits, my gut feel tells me that this will be the inaugural year of some sort of legitimate TXT-based gambling product. TXT jueteng or TXT lotto?!

7. TXT TV gaming. I have witnessed the dramatic take-up and usage of PC-based online games with sales of their prepaid card components hitting the roof. Since TV has a higher penetration in the Philippines as compared to the PC, then a converged TV and mobile phone gaming service should thrive. Thatís entertainment, folks!

8. Wi-Fi will show stronger take-up. Corporate Wi-Fi will become the norm and not the exception since security has become good enough and hardware prices have dropped significantly. Hot spots will also now be found in more coffee shops and hotels to lure the users. I was able to build a Wi-Fi hot spot in my home for less than P10,000. There is something so cool and liberating to be seated in your garden sipping coffee while surfing the Web on your laptop wire-free.

9. Content will continue to rule for most users. While download speed increases are nice, they remain unjustified for most users, for whom "fast" was fast enough in the last quarter. The focus will be on content providers with more application-based products and rich content that are practical and increase productivity rather than on brainless promos and F4 themes.

10. SMS will still rule! I see the continued strong growth of SMS traffic in 2004 since it will take a few years before next-generation messaging technologies such as MMS are fully deployed and mass market adoption of MMS-enabled handsets occurs. Also, itís cheap and fast! After 2004, SMS growth will start to level off, and revenues are projected to decline as MMS rises in popularity and grows its share of premium messaging content services, generating higher data revenues in the process.

All things considered, 2004 will still shape up to be an exciting year where all telcos and their content providers will be continuously challenged by the mature wireless Filipino. Merry Christmas and a more prosperous 2004 to all!

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Patrick Garcia is managing director of Bidshot Wireless Services. For comments or suggestions, text your message to 233011 (Globe) or 2430018 (Smart), or e-mail txtcity@yahoo.com.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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