Get On Track While 3G Is In The Shop
What drives wireless, and what will propel VARs to victory lane while developers tinker with 3G (third generation wireless)? Two vendors think they have the answers.
George Faigen is quite philosophical about the next step in wireless. Faigen, chief marketing and strategy officer at Broadbeam Corporation (Princeton, NJ), relates the evolution of wireless to a 1980's computer game that, in his opinion, came along well after its time. "In 1985, PCs were very limited. But then Flight Simulator caught the attention of the nation, using PC technology that had been there all the while. The software had the potential for years. The game was born not of a technological revolution, but of someone saying, 'Hey, wait a minute, I can make a game out of this.' So it is with wireless," Faigen contends. The potential for creative new applications is here now, even if 3G (third generation wireless) isn't.
Georgia Softworks President David Sexton presents a more technical approach to the next step in wireless technology. Where Faigen sees the industry buzz revolving around end user experience and creativity, Sexton stresses the evolution of middleware architecture as the hot topic. "The wheat is being separated from the chaff," Sexton explains. "The wheat is application independent middleware that enables heterogeneous systems to be developed and interoperate. The chaff is application dependent middleware that limits system development and innovation and hinders the competitive edge."
So where does that leave you, the VAR? Watching for the next big technology (3G or otherwise), sifting the myriad middleware options for the wheat, or searching for creative applications of what you sell now?
Position Yourself Now
While the world waits for 3G, VARs shouldn't be in a holding pattern with today's technology. Regardless of the hype 3G is creating, breaking into wireless now will reap sales rewards when 3G or one of its variations comes to fruition. And VARs can use the hype to sell to end users today.
All it takes is a foot in the door with a wireless application to start opening minds to what wireless can really offer, says Faigen. "It's truly a lack of creativity that's between them and wireless success right now. The networks, the devices, and the software that makes everything happen are all there," he said, referring to consumers who don't use wireless, or don't use it to its potential. "They haven't figured out why they need wireless. They're still taking a train from place to place, and we're in an airplane."
The time to act is now, says Faigen. "The one thing we should be shouting out at VARs is that if you're waiting for 3G, you're making a big mistake. By the time 3G comes around, you'll be too late. Everyone else will be in the business and you'll be a Johnny-come-lately."
Make All The Right Moves
Both vendors agree VARs should help customers unlock the perceived magic of current wireless in a way that will propel them along with changes in the technology. "VARs need to recognize that wireless middleware must focus on connecting applications rather than becoming part of the application," says Sexton. "Therefore, VARs must push scalable components that work independently in many scenarios with multiple applications."
Wireless middleware applications once resided on non-Windows operating systems such as UNIX, or on operating systems that ran on a variety of hardware platforms such as IBM's AS400. According to Sexton, the cost of administering these systems resulted in slow change, and it became standard to tie wireless middleware to the application. "Application developers have never liked middleware that is tied to their application. It's an application developer's nightmare to know that the application specific middleware may fail if the application changes," he said. And with several developers ramping up for a rollout of a 3G network within the year, the question is less if the application changes than it is when. Offering independent middleware will prepare your customers for whatever changes the technology might bring.
Sexton preaches middleware such as Telnet. "Don't limit yourself to an all-in-one solution, or you'll be at the mercy of the vendor, who will be limiting the solutions you can provide for your customers," he advises. "People can use the Telnet server for connectivity from the RF devices to the server, and we also see folks using Telnet for system administration."
With Telnet, a system administrator can connect via the Internet or by dialing in to dozens of systems across the state, country, or world. "That's one piece of software you can use for wireless connectivity and for system administration," says Sexton. Such applications represent the marriage of technology and creativity that VARs can take to market today, while new technologies loom on the horizon.
As the wireless race roars on, the question remains whether the next big move will be a new technology or refinement of an existing one. The answer to that question may not be as important as the answer to this one: Will you be on the track?Questions about this article? E-mail the author at MattP@corrypub.com.