Mobile devices could outsell wristwatches

This week sees the start of CeBIT, Europe's largest technology event, and mobile computing is dominating.

This week sees the start of CeBIT, Europe's largest technology event, and mobile computing is dominating.

Fixed-line access to the Internet has had its day and the future now lies in mobile technology, CeBIT delegates will be told by GartnerGroup.

The forecast is in line with claims from mobile phone manufacturers, and in a week that new mobile products are set to steal the show at the biggest technology event in Europe.

At CeBIT most suppliers will focus on delivering products built around high-speed data technologies like the much-hyped Wireless App-lication Protocol (Wap), which is designed for Internet access over mobile phones.

In addition, announcements are expected on the Bluetooth short-range radio technology designed for data communications between mobile and fixed devices.

GartnerGroup believes mobile access to the Internet is an unstoppable trend, which will see mobile terminals provide 40% of the total access links to e-commerce in Europe by 2003, providing business will new markets in the e-economy.

New shipments of equipment designed for remote access will overtake PC-based kit for Internet links by 2001, GartnerGroup said.

An additional driver will be the mobile phone operators in Europe, who have zealously positioned themselves to dominate mobile data markets. GartnerGroup said 80% of them will offer a full Internet service through Wap portals by the end of 2001.

Peter Richardson, principal analyst at GartnerGroup company Dataquest, said, "Cellular users already outnumber Internet users by more than two to one and we predict the number of mobile users will exceed 1bn by the end of 2003.

"By contrast, the number of PC-based Internet users will not even exceed the number of mobile phones in use today - mobile device penetration might even rival wristwatches."

The estimated growth in the sale of mobile phone units worldwide between 1998 and 1999 was 65%, said GartnerGroup - jumping from 172m to 284m units last year.

Nokia, which has not been able to keep up with demand for its Wap-enabled device the 7110, saw 98% sales growth, and is the market leader in terms of sales, with 76m units last year.

Read more on Mobile hardware