WAP was one of the big disappointments of the mobile industry in the late 90s. Mobile Internet would be enabled by WAP, that would allow Internet access adapted to the small screens and lower processing power of the handsets of the time.
Telcos invested a lot of money to deploy the first WAP infrastructure and first Mobile portals, only to find that the service was completely unusable: too many clicks, too slow. On top of that operators tried to peel the onion with a too high price for mobile data, as they benchmarked WAP data rate with the price per byte of SMS (outrageously high, in terms of Euro/Byte). The failure was such that WAP was renamed Wait And Pay by the users, and mobile operators did not recover their investment.
Since those days, a lot of effort was put by operators to create better Walled Gardens, with downloads (games, ringtones, music tracks, etc), video-streaming and other WAP applications. WAP still requires a significant amount of Interoperability Tests (IOT) and WAP pages adaptation to guarantee applications will work. Usability and usage have increased, but still the penetration of the service is rather low (13%). Applications developed for Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Mobile, such as Google Maps, Gmail client or MobileTV Rich Media Clients have improved user experience, but still required important adaptation to keep up with the evolution of handset models
Only with the arrival of the iPhone and its Safari browser, Mobile Internet is beginning to show signs of success. As commented in previous post, 85% of iPhone users access the web from the handset, compared with a 13% of the overall market. One of the keys for this success is the performance of Safari rendering regular web sites. Such is the success of iPhone/Safari, that many mobile applications developers are seriously considering to drop any more native Mobile Application, and just focus on websites designed with mobile in mind.
Is this the end of native mobile applications? Will mobile handsets connect to the Cloud sooner that PCs?