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The following interview of Korak Mitra, Vice President, Universal Messaging Division, Sun-Netscape Alliance, took place at World Telecom just after the press conference for the World Telecom Internet Days.

Mobile and web-based applications

Is the Sun-Netscape Alliance going to move into the area of services to mobile telephones?

Our strength today is in the Internet. But there's a convergence of the phone network and the Internet. We recognise that there are different classes of users and different classes of bandwidths. There's the PC user with dial-up, or a cable modem or DSL and there is the mobile phone user or phone professional. There is such a large base of people on mobile phones that we think there is a market that hasn't developed yet where devices that are only being used for voice will be used for many other things. Imagine being able to call up your calendar, have it tell me what your appointments are and change it on the fly. Imagine talking to a Web site and have it tell you what is going on if you don't have the interface to surf it. Voice enabling will become commonplace in the future.

You mentioned earlier that there is a subset of applications that apply to mobile devices ...

Calendaring is clearly a key one. Email, fax, voice-mail and live phone are clearly other examples. Another application that would lend itself would be bill presentment. Any kind of approval, where, as a manager, you are asked to approve what somebody else has initiated. An expense request, for example, or a hiring request. And you are on the road. Being able to approve it through your phone is pretty powerful.

What is the financial model here? Who's going to be paying?

It depends if you are talking of the business user or the consumer. In the case of the business user, it is the Application Service Provider who provides these services to the corporate market. There is always money in that market and the money ensures the right service level and the quality of service. In the case of the consumer, things are typically funded through advertising or other forms of marketing and sales. A services provider creates a community. Let's take an example. A service provider I am working with is using free Web-mail to which they add Web-calendaring In addition, people can subscribe to content that is event-based. A football schedule, a concert schedule, a movie guide, ... So anything that is event based can be brought into the calendar as another layer. That way you are more likely to buy tickets. So selling tickets and reservations is another big e-commerce opportunity.

How does the Alliance see the provision of applications over the Web?

My view is that the applications that will take off will be very focussed, that are designed for the Web from the beginning and that fulfil a specific need. In the US there are hundreds of interesting business models in which people are acting as middlemen, finding a focussed need for a group that care about that need and they bring in people to service that need. In delivering services over the net, there are going to be many more of that sort of application than such things as word processing.

What is the Alliance doing to enable those who wish to provide applications over the Internet?

The premium is on speed, on creating a new service quickly, and being able to add new services quickly as the market changes. At the same time, you need to be able to scale up and be able to service millions of users as cost-effectively as when you first started. In addition to scalability, customer self service is another important asset. You need to be able to delegate all of your user management to your customers. You also need to be able to assure that everything is secure.

Does the Alliance plan to support those who provide small-scale applications like a forum or a chat?

We provide software that gives a portal-in-a-box where you can take off-the-shelf Web-email, Web-calendaring, Web-chat,...and provision it cheaply to begin with and grow it as you need it. With the ability to move user stuff off to the end user so they can self subscribe,... That is where the most dynamic innovation is. We are working with some partners who take our software and provide it as a canned service. The start-up doesn't have to worry about the provision of these things as a service. It can just re-brand them using another service provider's efforts. That isn't core to what they are trying to do. They are trying to create a community.

Korak Mitra, Vice President Universal Messaging Division, Sun-Netscape Alliance
Interview, Alan McCluskey.

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Created: October 10th, 1999 - Last up-dated: October 10th, 1999