Voice Is The Answer
In my view, voice is the answer. Using a voice interface removes the problems and costs of high bandwidth and integration with portable devices. And the best interface to your applicationsany application, for that matteris through a telephone. Any telephone will do, including a cell phone. Voice is the most natural and least complex way to give and receive information, so why not leverage the obvious?
And it's fast, too. Just ask Office Depot. Its new voice-activated order system was up and running in two weeks. Dial Office Depot's voice-activated order line, and you're forwarded to a voice server in a NetByTel data center. Tap in the customer number from the catalog, and you're connected to Office Depot's inventory database. A voice greets you; the one Office Depot uses is that of a woman with a hint of attitude (if you're slow responding to her queries, she'll say with a slight pique in her voice, "Okay, I'll give you more time "). NetByTel's system is capable of handling up to 13 languages (Office Depot's service is offered only in English) and doesn't care if you're calling from a GSM phone in Denmark or a time-warped rotary dial somewhere in Romania.
Voice is also the way to go if you've got devices that use menus, or if users will need fast answers about inventory levels, prices, delivery times, client spending and other data nuggets. Until wireless goes video, you're just not going to find a terrific application for small-screen, wireless devices. And as long as most business applications are text-based, there's no reason to try to jam menus into small screens. Standard cell phones calling into voice servers could make many companies wireless without the need to support a variety of handheld devices. The killer app for wireless is still voice.
The next decision you're going to need to make is this: Which wireless devices do you want to put in the field? If your corporate road warriors carry laptops, then your IS staff can load a lot of data into the hard drives. Need one or a dozen updates daily? Windows 2000 has internal synchronization functions that make it easy to update whole sets of files with one mouse click.