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WAP Versus i-mode

In a column for infoSync yesterday, Oliver Thylmann states plainly his opinion that observers have given i-mode too much credit and WAP too little:

I've read this over and over and over again, and I am starting to get really sick of it -- it's just like how some people can't seem to comprehend that WLAN and Bluetooth are similar technologies, but don't compete with each other head to head... NTT DoCoMo has a head start at the moment and is pulling a tremendous load by creating the market, but other carriers aren’t at a standstill. They know this is useful and they’re doing everything they can to build a very good solution. What they’ve learned though, is that they’ll make the most money if the solution they come up with works across a wide range of mobile phones and carriers. This has become very obvious through the recent introduction of the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), which we reported about recently. This new alliance was partly born out of the WAP Forum, and it's also worth to keep in mind that NTT DoCoMo, the company that created i-mode, is part of the OMA. Anybody involved with anything wireless does not want the interoperability mess that occurred when Nokia created its proprietary SMS solution for allowing logos and ringtones to be sent to their mobile phones and none others again -- and that's what the OMA is all about, put in the most simplistic way.
Interoperability is a worthy goal, but Oliver misses the network effect of i-mode. By shipping 35 million handsets that all support not only the same content rendering standard, but an open billing system as well, DoCoMo has created a unified market. Will the various handset vendors supporting WAP 2.0 all support precisely the same content standard? The same user interfaces, including device button layout? Will there exist a unified provisioning model? A unified developer reimbursement model?

While I disagree with Oliver on the importance of i-mode, the article is extremely useful from the standpoint of understanding the relationships between different mobile content standards. He succinctly captures information that can be difficult to track down.

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