Fed Mobile Computing Market Grows On

In the private sector, mobile computing has all but disappeared from the list of "Next Big Things." Once touted as the technology that would revolutionize how people work, it has been stifled by a lack of services and inadequate bandwidth.

Mobile computing "was a fad that never happened," said Richard Owen, president of AvantGo Inc., San Mateo, Calif., which produces software for personal digital assistants, or PDAs, and Internet-enabled mobile phones, including a package that provides Republican senators with daily news updates.

GartnerGroup, Stamford, Conn., attributes the mobile computing drop-off to timing, cost and market demand.

"Users are still waiting for the technological capabilities, waiting for price to come down and waiting for availability," said analyst Philip Redman.

While the private sector suffers through what Redman called a "trough of disillusionment," the federal market for mobile technology continues to expand.

"There is a growing realization that field workers and other government employees who need to be mobile can have access to their mission-critical applications via handheld devices," said Ken Whitehead, director of federal operations at Aether Systems Inc., Owings Mills, Md. Aether produces software for PDAs, for pagers made by Research In Motion, Waterloo, Ontario, and other mobile devices used by the U.S. Postal Service, Army, Navy and 1,000 state and local public safety agencies nationwide.

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