As CEO of Oracle's wholly owned subsidiary OracleMobile, Denise Lahey has seen her share of corporations that want to quickly get a mobile Internet site up and running. Lahey says that while the companies she works with don't yet fully understand what the wireless Internet is, how it works, or what it will mean for their businesses, they do realize that they have to do something now, and Lahey considers it her duty to help them.
"Mobile commerce is all about customers being able to reach companies, and companies being able to reach their customers," says Lahey. "As a result, people will be able to buy everything with these devices. You won't need a wallet or credit card, and you won't need an ATM locator since you won't have to be constantly on the lookout for a place to get cash in the middle of the night."
Lahey has been on the wireless frontlines for what is an eternity in Internet time: five years. Previously vice-president of Oracle's Mobile Product division -- as well as its first employee -- Lahey essentially built the division from scratch, first strategizing a mobile database strategy and then planning and designing the products. Three years ago, when she first suggested to Oracle founder Larry Ellison that the wireless Internet would be a significant player in the near future, the sometimes cantankerous head of the company gave Lahey his blessing.
Today, not only does OracleMobile provide businesses with an a la carte menu of wireless Web development, allowing developers to choose from a wide variety of modules, from Yellow Pages directories to mapping directories, it also automatically makes each module device-agnostic, which potentially removes a giant headache for the company.
"The future of software revolves around Internet-hosted services," she affirmed. "'How fast and how much' are the questions we hear from customers most frequently. The problem is that when they try to launch a mobile site themselves, they usually only focus on one device instead of focusing on the entire market."
Indeed, some heavy hitters have already signed on. For instance, Lottery.com recently opted for OracleMobile's alert service, which instantly notifies users when their particular number combination has won Megabucks, while Food.com selected the personalization and customization services provided by Zagat's restaurant directories, among others. Another customer, Evite.com, chose a module featuring driving directions so its users could easily receive directions to the parties they attend and that are planned through the site.
Lahey adds that the holy grail of mobile commerce is the ability to combine business and personal information that a user can customize, and then making it available on every device. Sounds like a tall order, but judging from the way she's developed and run OracleMobile so far, from hosting to providing services to simplifying usage, she appears to be on the right track. But sometimes she has to teach a couple of sessions of Wireless 101 to her clients.
"It's important to understand how people are using mobile devices to access the wireless Internet," she says. "It's so different from a PC, and it's the first hurdle that e-commerce businesses have to get over when developing a mobile service."
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