So… Jakob Nielsen has released a new report in which he says, essentially, WAP sucks. No surprise. He’s staking out a strong negative position (again) so that he when a significant number of companies fail at WAP (as they did with the web) he can sit back and crow “I told you so!” (as he has with the web) and maintain his chair as the “usability expert’s expert.” Hooey.

The issue – once again – isn’t the technology, so much as how that technology is used to make people’s lives easier. So long as WAP applications (much like Web applications) pass that acid test, people *will use* WAP-driven applications.

The challenge is, of course, that the devices in question (cell-phones, with their very limited display and text input capabilities) make it very difficult to create applications that will pass that test. I don’t pretend that cell-phones will become a browsing platform of choice. Instead, they will prove to be efficient companion devices that enable transactions – buy! sell! contact! – in places and situations that can’t be solved by desktops, notebooks and other “wired” devices.

Jakob offers the following data…

  • 70% of the users answered no when asked whether they would like to have a WAP phone within one year, and
  • 20% of the users indicated they would like to get WAP within three years.

Jakob should know by now that it’s not what people say that’s important, it’s what people do. And, in fact, people are buying WAP-enabled phones. Case in point: at cellmania.com, each and every one of the top five selling phones are WAP-enabled. That’s a buying trend that surprises even me, an admitted advocate of the “anywhere you go web”.

Just the same a large number of companies that build WAP-enabled applications will find that those applications aren’t used. Whether that’s because they build the application poorly, interface it badly, try to sell it to people who don’t exist, or to folks who don’t find that application a significantly better resource than what they currently have at their desktop – or on the radio for that matter – there will be failures.

There will, however, also be successes. And I, for one, would prefer to throw my efforts toward fueling success than predicting failure. It’s too bad Jakob can’t be bothered.

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