MSN.CA’s launch last month of MSN Mobile in Canada is just a small step in a North American market lagging far behind Europe and Asia in terms of wireless commerce and functionality, according to an industry analyst.
“I mean, there’s financial data available, there’s some sports stuff available – the typical things you would expect to see,” said IDC Canada Ltd.’s Joe Greene of the mobile MSN.CA web portal. “(But) I think they’re still just figuring out how people are going to use their mobile device to conduct commerce.”
Despite MSN.CA’s claims that its roll-out of its mobile portal is part of Microsoft Corp.’s Microsoft.NET wireless strategy, which aims to provide users with information anytime, anywhere, on a any device they choose, Greene said the launch will merely mean wireless users in Canada will have a source to check their Hotmail and do other limited browsing.
He compared that to countries like Finland and Japan, where people are already able to do such things as pay for soft drinks or cabs with their cell phones. Greene said the limitations for wireless technology in North America are a result of the plethora of wireless standards available, including TDMA, CDMA and GSM. European service providers, on the other hand, have agreed upon the GSM standard.
The other factor is that “local phone service is really inexpensive here in North America,” Greene said, unlike in Europe where mobile phone service is often cheaper than wired lines, leading to significant penetration levels of, and a reliance on, wireless phones.
However, that discrepancy may slowly be changing. Almost one in four Canadians currently own a wireless phone, according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association. The CWTA expects that number to more than double over the next five years. In its press release, MSN.CA said it was preparing itself for those statistics when it made MSN Mobile in Canada available to owners of Internet-enabled cellular phones and wireless devices.
The on-line information service will be available sometime this quarter to customers of Bell Mobility, Clearnet and Rogers AT&T Wireless. According to MSN.CA, the service will be customizable, allowing customers to choose whether they want to see breaking headlines, sports scores, stock information, or their travel plans through Expedia.ca.
Visit mobile.msn.ca or use the Mobile link off the MSN.CA site to enable the customization of services for the wireless phone.