PDAs will drive wireless infrastructure adoption

The increasing use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in the Middle East will drive the adoption of wireless local area networks (WLANs), GPRS-enabled networks and 3G coverage.

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By  Anna Karhammar Published  January 8, 2004

|~|palm.jpg|~|Stuart Maughan, palmOne’s country manager.|~|The increasing use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in the Middle East is set to drive the adoption of wireless local area networks (WLANs), GPRS-enabled networks and 3G coverage. Evidence of this comes from vendors like palmOne, which is realising growth rates of 10% to 15% on local sales of handheld devices and is currently making sure its channel is capable of supporting its drive into wireless networks. “The number of Wi-Fi 802.11 networks in the region continues to grow, and reliable GSM, GPRS and 3G will come in time,” predicts Stuart Maughan, country manager, emerging markets, palmOne Middle East. “The more devices that support these standards, the more people are going to want to use tools like e-mail. We see a lot of people buying handheld devices and taking them into the enterprise. As such, companies are developing strategies on how to handle these devices and how to give PDA users access to their networks so businesses can realise the benefits of these devices,” he adds. Public wireless networks and WLAN networks offer huge potential benefits to business. With new convergent devices such as wireless-equipped notebook computers and handheld PDAs, businesses can ensure every employee is online and connected to the company’s knowledge, resources and systems. In response to the predicted growth in both the number and reliability of networks in the region, palmOne has launched a new channel partner initiative in the region in an effort to help resellers and end users work around the complexities of operating wireless PDA solutions. Under the programme, the company will supply demonstration development equipment to its channels and open clear lines of communication with them so its solutions for wireless computing become clearly defined at a local level. “It can be a daunting challenge to get any kind of network working, whether wireless or not, and it is still early days for wireless — even in Europe,” adds Roger Baskerville, business markets and alliances director, EMEA. “There are several things which have had to come together [for wireless computing]. The first is a reliable network. Now wireless devices are ready and people can choose from a range of solutions, while things are just getting better and better with regard to networks,” he adds. However, not everyone is convinced that an increase in PDA usage will be enough to overcome the obstacles faced by local companies trying to implement wireless systems. With IBM reporting that 90% of corporate companies in Europe are planning to implement wireless networks in the future, and that 50% will provide PDAs to employees, the regional market will have to work hard to catch up. Regionally there are concerns that a lack of clear regulation and legislation is hindering wireless growth. In addition, complex technology issues must be solved before companies will be willing to invest in wireless. A wide number of innovative solutions are available but integrating them into a single, company-wide mobile resource that is technology and network independent is difficult. “There is no doubt that mobility is a clear business advantage that companies in our region can be using today,” says Bashar Kilani, manager of IBM’s software group for the Middle East & North/West Africa. “[But] there is a need to simplify complex networks by using software that ties together fixed, data centre and desktop systems with a wide range of mobile devices that can each have a defined role in a company’s mobile strategy. Only then can companies in this region build effective mobile solutions that drive true advantage,” he adds.||**||

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