Buying a CD online the moment a friend raves
about it or ordering airline tickets from the Internet while
killing time at the doctor's office could soon be as commonplace as
logging onto a PC to do the same things.
With tens of millions of people expected to own Internet-capable
phones in a few years, online business is casting an eye on how to
extend electronic commerce beyond the home computer to
"m-commerce" mobile commerce.
"It's going to be the most fantastic thing that a time-starved
world has ever seen," said Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Internet
company Amazon.com. Via satellite, Bezos delivered his message
Tuesday to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association
meeting in New Orleans.
Recently, his company aligned itself with various mobile
carriers to feature links to Amazon.com on phone menus.
The revolution toward wireless Internet will permanently change
how people shop, Bezos said. For example, someone could do errands
while sitting in a doctor's office or hear from a friend about a
book and buy it on the spot.
Looking 10 years into the future, Bezos predicted that all
Amazon's revenue may one day come from wireless purchases.
Picking book titles is one thing, but browsing for jewelry and
clothing on a 3-inch cell phone screen might be less compelling.
For that reason, some kinds of uses will lend themselves better
than others to wireless shopping, said Mohan Vishwanath, vice
president of Yahoo! Everywhere.
"Mobile commerce is still a very, very early thing," said
Vishwanath, who heads a division of the online service focused on
wireless distribution. Some applications that people really need to
see on a full-sized color PC screen may not translate well into a
wireless device, while others such as buying movie tickets could be
embraced quickly, he said.
As it edges into mobile commerce, Yahoo! plans to offer its
online auction service soon to mobile wireless users. Its customers
would set up their bids and preferences on a PC and would be
alerted on their wireless devices if they had been outbid. That
would give them the opportunity immediately to put in another offer
from their phone.
Mark Lowenstein, executive vice president of the Yankee Group
research firm, said financial trading or buying from a simple list
of online items over the World Wide Web could take off most easily
with the public.
"It's a big experimentation phase now to see what kinds of
commerce people are interested in doing on their mobile,"
Some say it may take a little time for people to adopt mobile
commerce. First they must adapt to the idea of using cell phones
for more than just making calls.
"People need to get comfortable first," said Debra Carroll,
vice president of marketing for Bell Atlantic Mobile. "But once
they do, wireless technology could allow businesses to give
consumers even better services than they could from a fixed site,"
Using location information technology embedded in wireless
phones, companies could offer specific details on the nearest
location for something the cell phone user wanted, said Richard
Sulpizio, president and chief operating officer of Qualcomm Inc.,
which makes phone handsets and other devices.
Eventually that also could allow for localized advertising on
Web sites accessed from wireless phones and handheld computers, he
Other businesses, like telephone carriers, stand to benefit as
well. For example, customers could have their purchases billed to
phone bills rather than credit card bills, creating a new model for
financial transactions that would benefit phone carriers.
Motorola is even looking at handsets that would let customers
swipe their credit cards through the phone, to recharge them