Architecture and Hardware Mobile commerce opportunities and challenges


  1. Article
  2. References
  3. Authors

Through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, technologists, vendors, and users alike have been searching for the next great wave in computing. The 1980s could accurately be labeled the decade of the personal computer, and the 1990s could just as appropriately be titled the decade of the Internet. Many experts would propose that the first decade of the 21st century will be the decade of mobile computing and m-commerce. So far, the promise and hype have surpassed the substance. Why is this so? The articles in this section address reasons for the promise and the hype, explain why reality has not matched expectations, and present ways designers and users can make m-commerce more practical for the 21st century.

In 1998, m-commerce was full of promise. WAP specifications were being detailed, was a reality in the U.S., and SMS messaging was in full force with second-generation networks. Mobile device manufacturers promised T1-like or faster connection speeds with UMTS by 2000. Adding to the excitement of that time, m-commerce revenues were forecast to be $2 billion in 2002 by IDC [2], and devices couldn’t be made or sold fast enough. Carriers were spending billions of dollars on new wireless spectra to deliver these services.

Then a funny thing happened—not nearly enough people stepped up to use these services; carriers went bankrupt, device manufacturers endured extreme financial hardship, and users of the devices were left feeling less than satisfied. The Nasdaq market plunge inspired much more modest goals (IDC confirmed $500 million in m-commerce revenues for 2002, but still has lofty expectations of $27 billion by 2005), a UMTS system that is still for the most part undeployed and is operating at far lower speeds than forecast, and much more cautious steps toward providing the services, devices, and applications that consumers desire.

Many experts would propose that the first decade of the 21st century will be the decade of mobile computing and m-commerce. So far, the promise and hype have surpassed the substance. Why is this so?

So what do we know about m-commerce? Researchers and practitioners alike are actively seeking the answers. The Boeing Wireless Classroom of the Future at Washington State University’s College of Business and Economics is an example of a test bed designed to explore the promises of mobility and new m-commerce applications, particularly as they interface with pervasive and ubiquitous computing environments [1]. Through careful empirical studies and rigorous development projects, market trends, product designs, and other critical success factors can be identified to limit the number of costly missteps in making m-commerce a reality rather than just another technology fad that quickly goes by the wayside.

We begin the section with an essay by Stafford and Gillenson, who provide a definition of m-commerce, and more importantly, an explanation of what it is not. Sarker and Wells describe a framework for mobile device usage and acceptance in an article identifying the relationships between many of the variables that cause people to not only purchase devices but to actually use them for m-commerce (consider the debacle that was and is WAP). In a complementary article, Jarvenpaa et al. study focus groups of existing mobile users, reporting the differing uses and needs of mobile devices in many nations with a high amount of penetration of these devices.

Next, we look at how mobile applications and services can be designed and offered to best take advantage of the technologies and user needs. Sun presents his work using an information requirement elicitation process for developing the applications. Benbasat and Lee discuss their work on interface design. Next, Venkatesh and his coauthors report on device usability for differing applications. Tarasewich then details the importance of the context in which information is provided in a typical m-commerce application. Finally, Rao and Minkakis examine location-based services and their importance in m-commerce, taking advantage of mobility rather than repackaging old applications in a new format.

It is hoped the articles in this section will inspire systematic research into the facilitators and artifacts of m-commerce. While old methods can be adapted and retooled to create applications and explain m-commerce successes and failures, new methods, tools, and ways of thinking must be developed and refined to take advantage of mobility and its potential.

Back to Top

Back to Top

    1. Lyttinen, K. and Yoo, Y. Issues and challenges in ubiquitous computing. Commun. ACM 45, 12 (Dec. 2002), 63–65.

    2. Sleeper, S.Z. Can m-commerce ride Wi-Fi's coattails? E-commerce Times, (Nov. 19, 2002);

Join the Discussion (0)

Become a Member or Sign In to Post a Comment

The Latest from CACM

Shape the Future of Computing

ACM encourages its members to take a direct hand in shaping the future of the association. There are more ways than ever to get involved.

Get Involved

Communications of the ACM (CACM) is now a fully Open Access publication.

By opening CACM to the world, we hope to increase engagement among the broader computer science community and encourage non-members to discover the rich resources ACM has to offer.

Learn More