“Ring My Bell” Nov. 2005 NorthBay Biz Magazine
Take advantage of today’s hottest web and cell phone technologies to stay
As a business owner, getting a prospect spun-up about what I’m selling
helps me close the deal. When they see me as a source of information on new
technology instead of “just another salesperson,” I’m on
my way to the music of a sale. To make that music, I often use my laptop.
PowerPoint is the overture, and my website is a great first act. I keep a
copy of it on my laptop to present what my company offers in a visually compelling
way—so my prospect can turn around and show his or her company the same
And what makes my website so compelling? Not only does it contain easy-to-find,
useful information, but it also embraces today’s latest technologies—one
of the most important of which is its cell-phone readiness. That’s right.
It’s designed so anyone with a cell phone can access its most important
content quickly and easily.
The next thing I do is show my prospect my competitor’s website. This
is my chance to explain in detail how I offer what they do not (such
as whether their site is up to current standards.) Showing other websites
adds authenticity to my presentation and speeds up the decision
process. My prospect can show coworkers why my offering is the best.
But it can be tricky to get behind the customer’s desk to access the
Internet. Fortunately, there’s a sensational third-generation network
available that lets me do that on my laptop at broadband speeds—anywhere
a cell phone works. I’ve been waiting years for this and the wait is
Be your own hotspot
Today, in San Diego and more than 30 other cities nationwide, you can insert
an “EVDO” card into your laptop and get broadband cellular Internet
access from Verizon and, by the end of the year in the Bay Area, Sprint. EVDO
access is a data-only cellular service that you can use anywhere you can get
cellular service. It provides a high-speed connection even when one endpoint
is moving (your laptop). No need to find a hotspot (a signal that lets laptop
users connect wirelessly with the Internet)—you are the hotspot. And
it’s fast. Verizon’s new EVDO network (which it also calls the
BroadbandAccess plan) is seven times faster than its existing NationalAccess
network. The NationalAccess network is made for voice technology, so it’s
low-speed. Cell phones don’t need a lot of bandwidth to send and receive
a voice call. EVDO offers the high-speed, high-bandwidth data transmission
that’s necessary for e-mail with attachments and Internet access on a
cellular network. Data often requires more bandwidth so that photos and spreadsheets
can be attached to e-mail. The “DO” in EVDO stands for “data
only.” You can visit EVDOinfo.com for details about when it will be available
in our area.
It’s not just the speed that makes this a breakthrough: it’s that
you can move beyond the 300-foot range of a hotspot. Your data connection is
coded with high-quality electronics and handed-off between well-engineered
cell towers the way your voice calls are. This means you can go anywhere your
cell phone gets reception and still be able to access the Internet with your
laptop—wirelessly. Verizon has spent $1 billion on this third-generation
cellular network, building it from the ground up with experienced engineering
and the latest electronics that use code divided multiple access (CDMA). Sprint
has been planning its CDMA network since 1995. Sprint knew that code division
was more robust than time divided multiple access (TDMA), but TDMA was easier
and cheaper to deploy. Guess which technology rolled out first?
With TDMA, your conversation is broken into chunks, like boxcars on a freight
train. TDMA shuffles the boxcars of several conversations and sends them down
the track. Multiple conversations are interleaved on a single channel. This
is why you often hear other conversations when the engineering or electronics
are poor. Thus it was only a matter of time before something better would come
CDMA still separates your data into boxcars, but it lets the boxcars stay together
in a single train, and multiple trains can ride the electronic track simultaneously.
So you can surf the web on your laptop at the beach using this technology.
You can use it at Starbucks without subscribing to T-Mobile. You can use it
at Kinko’s without subscribing to SBC. And you can use it in a moving
Verizon has put a lot of work into building this “evolution” (the “EV” in
EVDO). And good timing, too, because the user costs have dropped significantly.
In the past, the electronics that users need were so expensive that the service
wasn’t even commercially viable. Today, the PC card is less than $100
from Verizon, and there are others available online at EVDOinfo. So you don’t
have to buy the card from Verizon. Instead, you can shop for the latest and
greatest online. Different cards have different costs and capabilities, so
it’s up to you to decide which will best suit your needs. EVDOinfo.com
also provides tips and tricks to make the technology work even faster. It also
explains how to make the card work on an Apple laptop.
A few wrinkles: new hardware and monthly charges
The team at Backbone Media has published a Corporate
Blogging Survey 2005. Many Aside from the $100 card, the EVDO service
costs about $80 per month. This is on top of your existing voice service
(since the EVDO network is data only). You can see the marketing guys at
work here. Because cutthroat competition has driven down telephone rates,
it’s a challenge to earn enough to build a new technology. The engineers
toil for years designing and building a robust third-generation wireless
network, only to see beads of sweat rolling down the foreheads of the marketing
team. They worry about cannibalizing the existing, hard-won corporate cellular
accounts. The result is, you can opt to use a free program like Skype to
make voice calls, or just stick with your current cellular voice service.
Another interesting point is that Verizon has actually throttled back the
capacity of the EVDO network to send information from a computer to the Internet.
Download speeds are very fast, but upload speeds are slower. It’s easy
to collect e-mail with big attachments like images and spreadsheets, but
slower to send them. But Verizon has its reasons for this. Throttling back
the upload speed makes it much harder to use the card as a wireless web server
from an untraceable computer that’s moving across the landscape in
a van. While I love speed in both directions, I think Verizon made a good
business decision to limit unscrupulous Internet businesses from using the
broadband cellular service to conceal their business location.
Laptops are good, cell phones are better
Whether or not you use EVDO, or something like it, it’s very important
to make sure your website employs current technology standards. This means
making sure it’s easily accessible not only via computers, but also
via cell phones. More and more people are using their cell phones to obtain
information from the Internet, and it’s time to make sure they can access
your important online information in this manner.
For example, say you’re stuck in traffic and you receive a call that
requires contacting a plumber or electrician right away. Do you know that
you can search Google from your browser-enabled cell phone? This service is
provided by Google and can be accessed by cell phones and even computers.
(You can visit http://mobile.google.com/index.html for a free, no-obligation
demonstration of the mobile search technology that’s available today.)
If you add a location to your search, you get “Google Local” results.
Searching for “Plumbers Santa Rosa CA” adds phone book listings
for plumbers to the top of your search. If you have a snazzy phone like Motorola’s
Treo, the phone number is already underlined and ready to click to make the
call. How sweet is that?
What if you need a little more information and you’re not the one driving?
You can use your cell phone to compare the websites of different plumbing
and electronic companies. You can even get Yahoo! Maps on your cell phone
to find where the companies are located. But if your website is not cell-friendly,
you ’ll be left out of the mix.
If you build it, they will come: mobile search
In a well-designed website, the content is separate from the styling and
artwork. This means a web-enabled cell phone can get the text without choking
on graphics. For example, a website designed for cell phones would have
the phone number right at the top, along with a list of services or products
You already know how to use Google. Google
Local is its newly released
addition. It combines 8 billion indexed web pages with Yellow Pages information
to deliver a list of relevant businesses at the top of your search results.
So if you add a location to your search (pizza Novato) Google will add Local
results at the top of your search results with links to a map showing the
business locations, addresses, driving directions and phone numbers. This
means you can find local businesses that don’t yet have web sites
through Google Local because information from the phone book is now included.
This works on your computer, and it can work on your mobile phone, too.
For businesses, Google Local on mobile phones is an exciting innovation.
Google Mobile Web Search lets you search for websites that are specifically
designed for mobile phones and devices. Now commuters can find emergency
pet services, an electrician, or a florist while stuck in traffic. This
could revolutionize how local businesses find new customers.
Google Local business listings on mobile phones can be a powerful tool
to pull in new business. You sure don’t want your competitors to be
found first! What kind of website do you need to take advantage of this
innovative search engine technology? A mobile one.
A mobile website is written in XHTML, WML or iMode, and is designed to
be viewed on a cell phone or other mobile device. Japan uses iMode; WML
is an older format that doesn’t let you view images. Most newer mobile
phones sold in the United States support XHTML, so you can view images and
text on your mobile phone.
For the past several years, professional web developers have used XHTML
to create websites that are ready to work with new technologies. Together
with cascading style sheets (CSS), the developer separates content from
artwork so the mobile device can deliver the meat of your website (text
and links) without the bandwidth-hogging potatoes (images).
If your website was coded in HTML, you can apply for the dot-mobi version
of your domain name and create a parallel website using XHTML and CSS.
When it’s finished, you can let Google know you have a mobile version
of your website by submitting the sitemap through the XHTML mobile
profile link in the webmasters section.
Got dot-mobi? Adding mobile access to your Web Site
So you’ve already invested plenty of time and money in your website
and you don’t want to start over to make it cell phone accessible?
Nokia understands. So do Ericsson, Samsung, T-Mobile, Vodaphone and, yes,
Microsoft. They formed a consortium and petitioned ICANN, the organization
that regulates domain names, to create a new top-level domain called “.mobi.” This
means that if your domain name is NorthBayBiz.com, you can create a website
specifically designed to be read on cell phones and use the domain name
NorthBayBiz.mobi. So if you have an old-fashioned website in HTML or Flash,
you probably need to create a separate dot-mobi site rather than update
the obsolete site. If you’re building a new site, make sure it’s
in XHTML and CSS and is optimized for small screen rendering (SSR), which
is the format that cell phones use. Then when mobile users are looking for
information or local services, they’ll likely use Google to get a
list of websites. And if they prefer a dot-mobi site due to its ease of
use, your site will be ready for action.
Rick Fant, Microsoft’s director of mobile services, says that that
dot-mobi is “essentially a marketing program. We aim to make the mobile
Internet extremely visible.” Musicians and record companies want to
reach college students and young professionals. Fine restaurants want to
reach Wine Country tourists. Their cell phones are a great way to do that.
The technology professionals building their wine collections know how to
use Google on their Blackberries and Treos. Dot-mobi is perfect for them.
Do you know that all the phones Nokia ships next year will have Flash
already installed so you can see moving web graphics? Samsung is already
shipping phones with Flash installed. Dot-mobi websites will be attractive
and fun and another way to reach customers.
Starting in January 2006, there is a 90-day sunrise period to capture
the dot-mobi extension for your website name. So don’t fail to visit
Mobile Top Level Domain (http://www.mTLDinfo.com), the website for the consortium
that is sponsoring dot-mobi. The site also explains how dot-mobi lets people
know you’ve optimized your site so it’s easy to reach and works
predictably. If you run a bed and breakfast in a charming North Bay hamlet,
dot-mobi is a strategy for you. Want wine tourists to find your family winery?
Make sure to get dot-mobi for your website.
Hit the right notes, use the right Web browser
The fastest web browser available today is Opera, which is based in Norway.
Built from the ground up to be fast, the program is so small it’s
used in Nokia and many other cell phones. I’ve been using Opera as
my regular web browser for years because it’s faster, safer and easier
to use than any other. It has the best security track record of any browser—and
Opera has a button for SSR that lets you see any web page as it would
appear on a cell phone. While the “browser wars” that once plagued
computers are now troubling some cell phones, standards-based browser compliance
is just around the corner, and the dot-mobi consortium is hastening the
process. It manages the dot-mobi top level domain (TLD) and encourages standards-based
You can visit Opera.com and download the browser. It won’t over-write
your current browser. Instead, you’ll simply gain a choice in web browsers.
Keep on keepin’ on, add online advertising
A house is never finished. Get a big screen TV, and you have to rearrange
the furniture. A website is like that. As each new wave of technology reaches
the shore of your business, it’s very important to make sure your
competition does not ride the wave to a greater market share at your expense.
You need a fast-loading website even though your customers have high-speed
connections at the office because you want your website to work wirelessly,
too. You need text on your web pages so that search engines have something
to index, even though you may love the artistic all-Flash sites. You need
to get your mind around Google and Yahoo advertising, even though it is
completely different. It delivers your ad when people are shopping online
for your product or service, which makes it fundamentally different from
passive TV or newspaper advertising. Even more astonishing, you don’t
pay when your ad appears, as you do for TV or newspaper. You only pay when
someone clicks on your ad to reach your website, and the price per click
can be as low as a nickel. Even more amazing, your ad can be programmed
to appear only for Bay Area shoppers, not the entire country, and you can
limit your spending to as little as $5 per day. Don’t let your competitors
figure this out before you do! And have some fun with the new toys!