It's unlucky that acronym for Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) has such an unfortunate rhyme! Even more unlucky for WAP, it burst onto mobile communication scene with lavish promises from Mobile Operators (you know who you are) of 'The Internet on your Mobile' and 'Take Internet with you'.
That really was a load of WAP.
So, a few years on we can ask, like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 'WAP, what is it good for'?
More than you might think, given current deafening silence from those same Mobile Operators.
The rise (and rise) of SMS is instructive. This has gone from nowhere to everywhere with practically no promotion from networks. Type SMS into Google and you get 52 million hits! In China in 2003, 220 Billion SMS messages were sent. During 2003 in UK alone, 30 Billion were sent, which equates to 500 for every man, woman and child in entire country! What is going on here?
Well SMS is cheap, not cheap enough perhaps but, up until a couple of years ago, much cheaper than calling. So it was a viable alternative to making a mobile phone call, everyone could send and receive them, and it didn't matter what handset you used or what network you were on (or even which country you were in).
Much same is true of WAP. Most handsets sold this century in GSM markets are compatible. Costs, especially using GPRS, are very low, as long as information is optimised for handset. Actually, it costs less to read your email with GPRS than to send an SMS. How times change!
And people are using it, too. In UK in December 2003, number of WAP pages viewed was over 1 billion for first time. The Mobile Data Association (MDA) forecasts 13 billion for 2004 as a whole, up from 9.2 billion in 2003 (against an original MDA forecast for 2003 of 8 billion).
All this is in face of complete indifference, if not outright hostility, from networks. The problem for them is that, as mentioned, WAP is cheap. You can get all mobile email you need via WAP to your handset for around one tenth of cost of a RIM Blackberry data subscription. And please don't ask how much running costs are of a laptop mobile data card! A while ago, one of my colleagues used more data in a month than cost of mobile data card itself. Since then networks have introduced more reasonable price bands, but he now gets all email he needs on his cellular phone via WAP for one hundredth amount spent during those expensive 30 days. And he doesn't need to carry a laptop around with him, wait for it boot, wait again for it to download mail, and balance it on one hand whilst holding his coffee with other and his mobile phone in a third!