‘One hand test’ key to wireless applications: analyst

The small size of handset displays and keyboards call for a more compact and better thought-out interface, says analyst

We already have a wealth of digital content available to us, so the next few years will be dominated by the battle for easy access to it, says industry analyst Andy Seybold.

Access to the internet is an easy first application of wireless networking, but it’s probably not the most appropriate one when it comes to securing long-term user loyalty and revenues, says Seybold.

The small size of typical handset displays and keyboards call for a more compact and better thought-out interface, he told the Convergence 07 conference, which was held in Wellington last week.

To gain Seybold’s approval, applications for use on handheld devices have to pass the “one-hand test”, for example, being able to collect email on a BlackBerry without having to use two hands or pull out a pen or stylus, he says.

Typical handheld tasks, such as setting up appointments, should proceed via a “conversation” which is unseen by the user. For example, a software agent might be checking airline timetables; it should gather the information and the report back to the handheld seamlessly. “It should never ask you to use a browser or touch the internet,” says Seybold.

Similarly, “search” cannot work like Google, by presenting a long list of links. This is unreadable on a cellphone or even a PDA screen.

An alternative way of presenting such information must be found for an application which is essential in a world of information overload.

Context-sensitive search offers a strand of hope here. For example, if you’re accessing entertainment sites and search for “Paris”, Yahoo’s OneSearch will put Paris Hilton — not the French capital — at the top of its results list.

New business models also need to be created to meet the needs of a community that is becoming impatient with having to keep in touch via different media, using various devices.

A promising development here is the WiMax service that US telco Sprint has introduced: it has begun charging a single per-person or per-family fee for access to its networks through any device.

And, on the technical front, Qualcomm has built a universal chipset for the range of devices that will receive the multicasting video service provided by its MediaFLO subsidiary.

Ideas regarding how people will actually use mobile television services await a firm market response, says Seybold.

Likewise, uses of mobile internet have yet to shake down, he says.

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Tags mobileBlackberrypdaHandheldshandset

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