Wireless computing: Five things that won't happen in 2008

Enough pundits are telling you what will happen in 2008. But one is saying that when it comes to wireless networking and Voice over WLANs is not one of them!

It's a new year, and every IT pundit out there has his or her obligatory list of predictions for 2008.

But ABI Research, a market research firm whose fields of expertise include wireless and networking technology, has issued a list of predictions for what isn't going to happen in 2008.

ABI is predicting that some of the hyped applications for Wi-Fi won't see adoption booms, radio frequency identification (RFID) will not prove to be a cure-all for supply chain woes just yet, and some mobile device manufacturers won't make their fans or investors happy in 2008.

Predicting what won't happen may seem easy. Any joker can go out on a limb and say, "Google won't go bankrupt next year," or "IBM won't abandon the mainframe in 2008." But ABI's analysts are trying to cut through the hype, and CIOs should listen to what they have to say.

1. Wi-Fi will not have a big year in the enterprise in 2008.

Voice over wireless LAN, which ABI refers to as Voice over Wi-Fi, has enjoyed some hype recently as a technology that could cut internal telecom costs for companies. However, we won't see the wide adoption in 2008 that vendors are hoping for, according to Stan Schatt, ABI's vice president and research director for networking.

"We don't have a lot of vendors out there making this work," Schatt said. Some vendors, such as Cisco, are finding some play in certain vertical markets, such as the retail industry, but the technology is not yet mature. The Wi-Fi Alliance, the non-profit organisation that adopts Wi-Fi standards and certifies the interoperability of Wi-Fi technology, won't start testing the interoperability of enterprise voice over Wi-Fi equipment until the second quarter of 2008. With that in mind, Schatt said CIOs will likely stick with pilot projects this year, and won't engage in widespread deployment of this promising technology.

2. It will be a lousy year for Wi-Fi security.

"I would not be surprised to see WPA2 [Wi-Fi Protected Access, the security standard for Wi-Fi] cracked some time during the year," Schatt said. "It's not likely, but it's possible. But even more likely, we're going to see viruses introduced by mobile devices and getting onto networks. The major Wi-Fi vendors haven't been too out front when it comes to working to prevent this from happening."

3. Motorola and Palm will struggle to offer CIOs strong smartphones in 2008.

Stuart Carlaw, ABI's wireless research director, said CIOs should steer their mobile workforces clear of Motorola devices in 2008. ABI is predicting that Motorola's mobile device segment will not see restored stability this year.

"It's a very volatile company at the moment," Carlaw said. "They sat on their laurels a little bit after the Razr. They have a particularly weak offering in the smartphone market. There are probably two or three other guys you want to partner with, such as RIM or Nokia. There are some pretty tidy Motorola devices out there, but if you want a load of innovation and a good feature set, I think it's hard for Motorola to compete with its device portfolio. You probably want to sit down and think about what other options are out there."

Carlaw said he thinks Motorola can turn things around with its mobile offerings, but he doesn't see that happening for another six to eight months. In the meantime, CIOs should look elsewhere.

4. Palm won't ship its long-promised Linux-based platform in 2008.

Experts have said Palm needs to introduce a modern operating system for its devices in order to differentiate itself from market leaders such as Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry. Palm has promised that it will ship Linux-based devices in 2008, but ABI said the market won't see these devices until 2009 because Palm has decided to develop its own Linux-based operating system rather than license another company's platform. ABI said Palm won't have enough time to fully develop the platform and produce new devices for them before the end of 2008.

5. RFID won't be a cure-all for inventory and supply chain management problems in 2008.

Michael Liard, ABI's research director for RFID, said despite the hype surrounding RFID technology, CIOs should avoid looking at RFID as a magic bullet. The technology has promise, but it can't solve a company's supply chain and inventory woes on its own. Instead, it should be integrated with other technologies.

"RFID is part of a suite of automatic identification and data capture technology, such as bar codes and wireless," Liard said. "All these technologies are converging and RFID is a part of the puzzle, but it shouldn't be treated as a silo. As end users approach RFID technology and invest in it and deploy it, they should do so with the understanding that RFID data may touch multiple parts of the enterprise and can help drive business decisions throughout the enterprise. But it should be used with other inputs of data."

Liard said CIOs shouldn't try adopting RFID as an out-of-the-box solution to a problem. Instead, they should identify specific business problems and look at how RFID can solve those problems.

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