Wireless Adoption

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The Sept 17 issue of PC Magazine discusses the cautious attitude of business when it comes to deploying wireless access to their applications. It seems that many CIOs are interested in the potential of wireless access through phones and handhelds but they aren’t buying the technology. Many are waiting for wireless advancements that always seem to be just around the corner. Others are concerned with the shortcomings of the technologies that are currently available. Even so, vendors are building wireless into their products. They feel that they need wireless capabilites in order to win contracts.

At the real estate software company where I worked, we built a WAP add-on for our MLS product to allow Realtors to search for properties over their phone. Not one of our customers ever bought the WAP module, but it was still something we needed to have available. Most RFPs we would get from potential clients requested that wireless access be available. So we built the module, not because we thought that anyone would ever buy it, but because it helped us win sales.

Why wouldn’t people buy it? WAP sounds cool when you describe it, but in practice, it’s more difficult to use than it’s worth. The ability for a real estate agent to search for homes when they are out in the field sounds very exciting, but once agents sit down and try to do it, they realize that it’s not something they would use very often. Why would an agent try typing search parameters into a phone keypad, only to get the limited amount of property information we could display on the tiny screen? And Realtors don’t typically search for houses when they are in the field. The normal workflow of an agent is to compile a list of properties to tour while in the office and then take that list with them when they show the properties to prospective buyers.

The only truly useful feature that we had available was a search by address. With this, an agent could enter an address and retreive information on a property. If an agent were out showing properties and drove past a house that wasn’t on their tour list, then the Realtor could look up the address of the house and get the price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and the contact information of the selling agent. Armed with this information, the agent and buyers could make an informed decision about whether to stop and view the house.

As usefull as this feature was, it wasn’t compelling enough to convince our customers to purchase the add-on module and pay the monthly costs associated with it. But it sure demoed well at trade shows, and demos are what get you in the door.

Wireless access is often slow, unreliable, and difficult to use. No wonder corporations are slow to buy in. But being able to access your data from anywhere is a dream come true, so vendors keep building products to capitalize on that dream.

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