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Oops a false move made me send my mail without finishing it (the damn
Ctrl+Return shortcut effect).
To end the 7) Technical problems paragraph :
One should therefore not point finger at the WAP Forum and tell them "WAP is
dead because you wanted to build your technology alone without involving the
W3C or others, so you're paying the price of your arrogance". Whatever the
technology used, be it WAP, lightweith HTML, XHTML or cHTML (in i-Mode),
development for phones require a specific application with dedicated
ergonomics, special navigation mode and so on.
This, combined with the fact that lots of already existing web sites or web
application are badly written, mixing presentation with business logic, made
the cost of developing a WAP application too high. Add a bit of market
specifics, especially the impossibility to have a decent revenue model due
to the short sightedness of mobile operators which would not want to share
their revenues, and the fact that the market has become saturated so the
deployment of new phones has dramatically slowed down, and you obtain WAP as
it is known now.
8) The success of SMS
While WAP stagnated, a low-tech player developped and boomed : SMS. This
asynchronous, two-way, short message (160 characters) delivery system is
generating high revenues for operators (in France, about 10% of the revenue
of mobile operator come from SMS, and this share is growing).
Why does a very low-tech, poor media technology (SMS can be used to download
custom ringtones and screen logos) succeeds where WAP has failed ?
Simply because all GSM handsets can receive SMS messages, that the charges
are high but per-message (and not per-time), because it is lucrative (mainly
for the mobile operators, but the SMS Premium charging system will allow
content provider to receive a share of the revenue), and because there are
killer apps that advertised the technology to the masses : chat, games, and
custome ringtones & logo download for now (it looks stupid, but a lots of
revenue is generated with these three apps). Revenue is a great incentive
for content providers, so the content quality is slowly but steadily
increasing, et voila, you've got a prosperous industry.
To conclude, we should not look at pure technical reasons to explain the
demise of WAP. The problem is mainly rooted in the dynamics of the mobile
So will be the solution, because even if WAP looks dead, it is not. As I've
said at the beginning of this mail (the previous one, in fact), there is a
majority of WAP 1.2 or WAP 2.0 enabled phones coming on the market now. By
creating the SMS Premium revenue sharing scheme, the mobile operators seem
to have eventually understood that revenue sharing is the best way to create
a market (or at least, they remembered the Minitel lesson).
Without revenue sharing, it was virtually impossible to make money on the
WAP market. With higher bandwidth and volume charging rather than time
charging, we can expect the advertisement market to appear. With
advertisement and revenue sharing, we can expect the WAP market to become
lucrative, and hence become a support for the technology instead of a
Responsable R&D / Head of R&D
UBICCO, the Multi-Access Software Vendor
Phone : +33 155 040 321
Fax : +33 155 040 304
Mobile: +33 661 907 640
>De : Nicolas LEHUEN
>Envoye : lundi 11 mars 2002 16:22
>A : 'AManns@uss.com'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'
>Objet : RE: [xml-dev] What happened to WAP
>First of all, even if WAP is considered obsolete and said to
>have disappeared, the number of phone models supporting WAP is
>steadily growing in Europe (NB : I'm French and I work in a
>company who sells a multi-access (including WAP) application
>server, also a WAP Forum Associate Member). A majority of the
>phone you can buy at any retail store supports WAP 1.2.1. The
>handset renewal period is estimated to 18 months by analysts,
>so we should expect the proportion of deployed WAP phones in
>Europe to raise dramatically.
>But the fact that WAP is not as successfull as expected is
>blatant. Here are a few reasons for that :
>1) Too high expectations.
>WAP has been marketed a "Internet on your phone". A simple
>demo of a WAP phone could easily prove you that it was quite limited.
>People lured by the marketing fluff into looking at that WAP
>thing were easily thinking they were taken for fools when
>seeing the real thing demonstrated.
>Yet even with very low bandwidth, graphical resolution and
>ergonomics, a device could be successfull, the French Minitel
>is an example for that. Even a crappy device can be
>successfull if there is a killer app available for it (the
>Minitel killer app was notoriously adult chat rooms).
>2) No killer app.
>The "Internet on your phone" meme was probably a killer meme,
>here. There was no real understanding of the fact that WAP
>users were using their phone while mobile, and that if someone
>would wait for 15 minutes until they reach a proper PC with
>high speed Internet Access (heck, even a modem is high speed
>compared to WAP's 9,6 kbps), they would not go through the
>hassle of using a WAP site that was a bad translation of a
>badly designed Web site.
>Developing WAP applications require a non-nonsense approach of
>usability, both for the service itself and its ergonomy.
>I don't need to buy books from a WAP phone, I can wait 15
>minutes to get to my home/office PC, or if I'm in town I can
>directly go into a book store. But that didn't prevent an
>online book store from having a project of WAP e-commerce site
>for which we have been consulted.
>Moreover, your site usability had betted be finely tuned and
>tested, because if you force your users to struggle with your
>site to get what they want, given that they pay the
>communication fees, they will leave your site and you'll never
>hear of them again. Anyway
>A lot of time has been lost developing the wrong services with
>the wrong apps. This turned away many potential users. The
>lack of users then discouraged further interesting services
>from appearing. Technology misuse has killed WAP by
>reinforcing the chicken-and-egg effect.
>3) Costs and revenue model.
>WAP is charged to the user on a per-time basis. Depending on
>your mobile services provider, it is charged in or out your
>time credit (when charged out of the time credit, the costs
>can be quite high in France). Per-time charging + low
>bandwidth = unsatisfied customer.
>Plus, all the money goes to the mobile services provider. I
>don't know any European operator that shares its benefits made
>on WAP airtime. This is bad since as the user is charged on a
>per-time basis and the bandwidth is low, the use of
>advertisement to generate revenue is not possible.
>This is to be compared with i-Mode (NTT Docomo, deployed in
>Japan but coming in Netherlands and Germany) which at least
>proposes a shared revenue model. Content providers are
>therefore encouraged to develop new services, and as they
>compete for users, the quality and originality of services is
>increasing. Without advertising,
>4) Bad timing, first strike.
>It is not easy to verify this, but WAP phones may have
>suffered from the fact that they came on a saturated (or
>nearly saturated) mobile phone market.
>In Europe, the number of mobile phone owners was stabilising ;
>the interesting offers that provided a strong rebate for
>mobile phones if you subscribed to a mobile operator was maybe
>appealing, but it needed you to change your phone number.
>So, to buy a WAP phone at an interesting price, either you had
>to be a first-time customer (which is less common on a
>saturated market), or to change your mobile operator (you had
>to churn). Changing your phone is a strong churning incentive,
>but the volume of churn generated by this incentive is small
>comparated to the growth rate of a non-saturated market.
>I think the problem here is that WAP allowed companies with an
>Internet experience to enter the mobile phone market, without
>preparing them to its specificities. On the Web, a browser is
>a relatively easy to replace piece of software. With WAP, your
>browser is embedded inside a 150-300 euro device that is
>competing with the one a big number of people already have in
>their pocket. This makes the market very different and very
>reluctant to technological evolution.
>5) Bad timing, second strike.
>The timing was bad with regards to the rise and fall of the
>Internet startup bubble. WAP arrived on the market when the
>so-called "new economy" was booming, and lots of company were
>created to ride the WAP wave. Then the bubble bursted, and
>there was a strong disillusion feeling. I think the WAP baby
>has been thrown away with the new economy bath water.
>6) GPRS and UMTS
>A lot has been promised for WAP, and people were deceived. A
>lot has been promised for GPRS and UMTS, too, but the general
>availability of these technology went from "extremely soon" to
>"somewhere in 2006-2007 (for UMTS)".
>Combined with the need to buy a new device, this rapidly
>caused people to admit the general saying that "WAP [was]
>dead" and wait for the next generation. This seemed reasonable
>when GPRS was promised for 2002 and UMTS for 2003-2004, but
>this slowed the growth of the WAP phone base, and effectively
>contributed to making sure that WAP wouldn't be successfull.
>The irony is that GPRS and UMTS will suffer from the same
>problem as WAP did, namely the renewal of mobile phones.
>7) Technical problems
>I put it as a last item. People may scorn the WAP Forum in
>their vain attempt to redefine a whole independant set of
>network layers, but they were truly successfull. WAP does
>work. WAP 2.0, especially over GPRS (if we finally get it)
>will work even better.
>It's true that the fact that the WAP presentation language WML
>was very different from HTML has slowed the development of WAP
>applications. But it would be ridiculous to expect that this
>would have been different if the presentation language was
>HTML or XHTML. The point is that the particular ergonomics of
>the phone (screen size, navigation capabilities) forces
>developers to design an application specifically for WAP
>browsing. Even if the presentation language was HTML, there
>would still be a need for specific development for phones.
>WML is not a complicated presentation language, and its XML
>root make it easy to write well formed and valid WML content.
>Even if real WAP phone have different behaviours and bugs (by
>having written an adaptation layer that handles 60+ WAP
>phones, their specific screen sizes, behaviours and bugs, I
>can tell it), the situation is much better than if we had 60+
>phone models based on a loose HTML subset.
>WAP 2.0 supports XHTML Basic for basic pages, and the full WML
>2.0 DTD is an XHTML DTD, with lots of specific tags and
>attributes, which is why I laugh when I hear "standard XHTML".
>By including extension capabilities, XHTML standardizes the
>fact that nearly anything can be XHTML. Anyway, WAP 2.0 is
>fully XHTML compliant, but this won't mean that specific
>adaptation won't be needed, believe me.
>That is the real technical problem. It is not due to WAP
>itself, but simply to the fact that developing an application
>for a WAP client is the perfect use case to check the
>flexibility of already existing presentation frameworks, MVC
>design patterns et al. More than often, our customers realised
>that taking their already existing web site and building a WAP
>application with the same content and logic was more or less hopeless.
>>De : AManns@uss.com [mailto:AManns@uss.com]
>>Envoye : lundi 11 mars 2002 13:49
>>A : email@example.com
>>Objet : [xml-dev] What happened to WAP
>>I remember a few years ago that WAP was supposed to be the
>>next big thing.
>>Since then I haven't really been following any of the
>>because my work led me in a different direction. Lately I've
>>been doing a
>>lot more J2EE stuff and am trying to learn about more web
>>based stuff. My
>>question is, what happened to WAP/WML. Why is is obsolete now?
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