When in ROAM: Why wireless executive still don't get it
by Chris Willis
Thoughts about The Industry Standard's
ROAM conference, Tucson, AZ. April, 2001
CINGULAR'S CEO, Stephen Carter, summed up the wireless conundrum
with an anecdote about a child eargerly sketching away with her
crayons in class.
"What are you drawing," the teacher asks.
"I'm drawing God," she replies.
"But, dear, no one knows what God looks like," says the
"I know," she says, "That's why I'm drawing."
When it comes to sketching out the wireless future, many executives
are coming up blank. In Europe, carriers have spent $180 billion
on 3G spectrum licenses and will likely spend that much more on
The collective mind of many wireless executives at the ROAM conference
was one of great uncertainty. As a result many carriers and 3rd
party providers have sought solace in the one thing that won't save
Debates at the conference sounded like an alphabet soup of solutions
GPRS, 3G, SMS and WAP. But about whether WML is better than
cHTML is akin to artists taking sides about which paint, acrylic
or oil, will produce the more valuable painting. Unfortunately,
this techno-myopia has blurred the real understanding to success.
Namely, we should be, as Mr. Carter pointed out, in the business
to provide the "means to fulfill the fundamental human need
Mr. Carter seemed to be one of the few executive who did get it.
He knows customers don't care about technology. What they want are
more meaningful tools that enable self-expression. Tools that can
also inform and entertain. Therefore applications and devices need
to be designed not only for usability but marketed in an understandable
way. When was the last time your grandmother talked to you about
"surfing the wireless web" or WAP phones?
DoCoMo i-mode phone