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Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: M-Commerce Is Still More Myth Than Reality

I recently went to an electronics store to buy a cell phone. After examining a few service plans, the nice clerk behind the counter told me about the wonderful features of one particular phone. I'd be able to purchase music, books, groceries, all sorts of things, whenever I wanted without having to sit at my computer (he didn't even say anything about going to a store, as if that's so old-fashioned). I think he even said something about flying to the moon, but I'm not sure.

In all his information-packed descriptions of what I could do with this phone, he left out one key word: "eventually." See, none of those cool features are available today. In reality, much of what the experts and pundits said we could expect from mobile commerce by now isn't, well, a reality. Remember in 1999, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said mobile commerce was "going to be the most fantastic thing that a time-starved world has ever seen." Bought a book from your cell phone lately?

Were the predictors using goggles for visibility? Probably not. Have the vendors been moving too slow? Perhaps. Is the economy a major part of the problem? Certainly. Is there not enough demand from customers? Possibly. I'm not really looking to buy books or Cheerios or music through my cell phone anyway. (But, hey, ordering and paying for take-out sushi from my phone would get my attention quickly). My personal use aside, there are, no doubt, plenty of business applications that could benefit from progress in this market. However, major advances in M-commerce aren't going to happen until higher-bandwidth networks are deployed and wireless service providers cooperate with each other instead of pushing competing standards. Sound familiar?

So where does the market stand? It's clear from InformationWeek Research's latest E-Business Agenda study that deployment of E-commerce overall is down. Same goes for E-marketplaces, enterprise portals, and other Internet applications. The promise of profitable mobile commerce also seems to have faded more than anything. Indeed, 64% of those we surveyed don't anticipate M-commerce contributing to their revenue stream in the next year. Compare that with December 2000, when nearly 20% said it would make a major contribution to revenue within 12 months and more than half of all respondents said it would make at least a minor contribution.

This report encapsulates the sixth wave of a multiyear E-business tracking study. For more on our survey data, see page 52. And for more on mobile computing and what's working today, see page 37.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to use my fancy, M-commerce-capable phone for my most strategic applications-placing and receiving phone calls. Just call me old-fashioned.

Stephanie Stahl

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Stephanie Stahl's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Stephanie Stahl, please visit her page on the Listening Post.

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