One year on
It’s the first anniversary of my starting to write this column, and it’s certainly been fun (and thanks for all your feedback by the way). That year has seen several clear trends in the mobile and wireless market, the most surprising of which has been a shift in emphasis from mobile email to mobile applications. Obviously, mobile email remains close to the top of most people’s requirements list, but relegated to ubiquitous, no-brainer commodity status. Sales people I speak to – mobile network and hardware vendors – now tell me that the first thing new customers ask about is applications: “Does it support access to our legacy databases?”; “Can we get secure access to our extranet?”; “Does it have tools for our developers team to create mobile applications?” Many of the platforms I’ve covered this year do provide such toolkits and APIs, so for the next few columns I’ll shift the focus from push email (after my three-month marathon test) and look at what’s required to build simple mobile applications.
Another trend over the past year has been reduced mobile running costs. In issue 142, I noted that T-Mobile was starting a price war with some aggressive deals: “It’s hard to know whether T-Mobile will be able to sustain its current pricing and discounts. If it does, the other networks are going to have to do some drastic slashing to compete.” This is exactly what’s happened: many networks have now started to offer good value in terms of voice minutes and data, plus the little bonuses for businesses such as BlackBerry usage. Even Hutchison (previous owner of Orange) has started to take business seriously again on its 3 network, of which more in a moment.
A third trend is to mobile Voice over IP (VoIP), which was just starting about a year ago. In one of my earlier columns, I described how to use a standard SIP-based VoIP service via Nokia’s splendid E61 phone. One year on, some networks are even shipping phones with a Skype client pre-installed!
In contrast, it’s been a pretty quiet year for wireless: a few vendors brought out new Draft-N kit, but that’s about all. I think the market will remain flat until the 802.11n specification is finally ratified (and then probably for another year or so). Such lack of excitement is actually a good thing, since it means vendors aren’t rushing products hell-for-leather to market that aren’t properly tested and that interoperate poorly. Of course, this makes the marketing departments twitchy because they need buzz to encourage new sales and upgrades, so they’ve started to certify the various Draft-N products, which can only be good news. Let’s hope that with 802.11n the vendors will stick to standards and eschew bolting on proprietary go-faster bits as they did with 802.11g.
If you use Windows Remote Desktop facility (aka Terminal Services) to access your servers or desktops while away from base, you might be interested to know that a new version of the client is available. Actually, it’s been available since late 2006, but has only just started to receive wide distribution via Windows Update. This new client is based on Remote Desktop Protocol 6 (RDP6) and, although it has some interesting new features, I’ve found the main reason for upgrading is that it feels more reliable than the previous version. From your emails, I know I’m not the only one who’s struggled with the old TS client, which frequently locks up or loses connection to the remote system, but so far the new version seems far better.