Mobile Commerce “On Hold” in U.K. Says Survey

[London, ENGLAND] Most U.K. companies have put plans for mobile
commerce on hold, according to a new survey released Friday.

The survery of 500 U.K. companies, conducted for e-business Expo 2000,
Computer Weekly and Compaq, shows that no fewer than 62 percent
of them are adopting a “wait and see” policy towards m-commerce,
citing a whole range of reasons for their caution.

Twenty percent of the companies said they considered m-commerce
to be an unproven technology, while 19 percent said lack of
budget was a contributory factor. 18 percent cited skills
shortages and 17 percent said there was a lack of support
for m-commerce at the top level.

Not surprisingly, many companies — 31 percent — simply
reported that they were concentrating on other areas. Yet
there appears to be plenty of evidence that even those
that could benefit from m-commerce in the long-term are
not currently proceeding with it.

With a mastery of understatement, Mike Johnston, director
of new economy business at Compaq U.K. and Ireland,
acknowledged that WAP is not the killer application. He
said it has, however, given everyone a glimpse of the mobile
Internet opportunity.

Johnston said the approach to m-commerce should be similar
to working in the Internet space – “try it, fix it, analyse it.”
The market is moving so fast, he said, that businesses
cannot work in the “traditional plan, plan some more,
implement and adjust model.”

“UK businesses cannot afford to sit back and wait until the
technology matures — by that stage it will be too late,”
warned Johnston.

On the bright side, the survey is upbeat about growth in
the m-commerce market. Although most companies have no
activity currently scheduled, 22 percent expected to
use WAP in the future. The figures for other technologies
were Bluetooth and 3G both at 11 percent, and GPRS 9 percent.

The highest scores in the survey came from questions relating
to the benefits of m-commerce. 44 percent thought it
would bring better customer service; 37 percent said it would
give them a competitive advantage; 30 percent said it would
help them access new markets.

If m-commerce mainly benefits the customer, it is not
unexpected that U.K. firms would put it on hold. When
start-ups and foreign companies begin to grab a market
share, as they did in the wired Internet revolution, attitudes
will be forced to change, again.

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