Andersen Consulting is keen to be at the forefront of mobile e-commerce - or m-commerce. A few years ago, it established itself as one of the premier consultancies for electronic commerce. It showed it was quick to grasp the value of the Internet and integrate new technologies, such as Java. Robert Chew, the partner responsible for m-commerce at Andersen Consulting in Asia, said that only a short time ago many people thought a reference to m-business or m-commerce was a typing mistake. 'Make no mistake, the 'm' is here to stay, and driving a new revolution that is both similar and dissimilar to the e-commerce phenomenon of the past five years,' he said. It is similar because there is a lot of money being thrown at m-commerce, just as there was in the early days of e-commerce. Working against that, however, is a multitude of standards that make cross-communications complex. Unlike the Web with its universal HTML, mobile communication still incorporates several different technologies. The driving force behind wireless, however, is messaging. 'Messaging has advanced mobile-phone use and m-commerce in the same way that e-mail enabled the Internet and e-commerce. E-mail was at first trendy and then later became essential,' Mr Chew said. An important aspect of the new commerce is it will not replace anything. It is much more a 'complementary channel' to existing e-commerce. None of the excitement about m-commerce means it will necessarily succeed, particularly in Asia, although there are certain aspects to this new technology that may be more suited to Asia. 'It would be over-generalising to say that m-commerce in Asia will grow more rapidly than elsewhere in the world. We still must find a niche use. We need something compelling . . . Does one really want to buy a book from Amazon.com on a WAP phone? Probably not.' He said, though, that mobile-phone users might want to buy cinema tickets through their phones, 'something I personally have done numerous times'. The Asian advantage, if it has one, is that mobile phones are so widespread. The software and technology that is used for mobile phones must be simpler and easier to use than something created for a personal computer connected to the Net. Andersen Consulting recently established a mobile corporate portal at its wireless Internet development laboratory in Kansas City, in the United States, where users can access applications specifically created for mobile phones. An Andersen Consulting official said the company hoped to showcase this technology at the ITU Telecom Asia 2000 event to be held in Hong Kong on December 4-9. Fred Fosnacht, an Andersen Consulting Partner at the Communications and High Tech Industry Group, said the portal was created to meet the needs of its international mobile clients. 'These companies are industry leaders, many of which set the standard for e-commerce as we know it today. Now they continue to push the edge of the envelope, transforming the way they operate and compete to further enhance the benefits of mobility for their customers and employees,' Mr Fosnacht said. Perhaps Asia will get its chance in December to show off what it can do.