KUALA LUMPUR: Business travellers view wireless computing technology as a business necessity only a year after "hotspots" became generally available in cafes, hotels and airports, according to Intel Corp.
Today, there are approximately 20,000 hotspots where people can tap into a wireless Internet connection with their notebook PCs, a number expected to grow sixfold by 2005, the US microprocessor giant said in a statement.
According to an international survey of business travellers released by Intel, 71% of "road warriors" were convinced that WiFi or wireless fidelity would enable them to seize a communications advantage over their competition.
While only one in 10 had tried WiFi, nearly 90% saw wireless computing in their future. A third of the Asians surveyed said they plan to try WiFi within the next three to six months.
The survey also revealed that being without Internet access while travelling puts businesspeople in an awkward position with bosses, coworkers and customers who have become accustomed to expect prompt e-mail responses.
When working in the office, 31% said they reply to e-mail within one hour. When they are travelling, only 7% respond within that same time frame. About 30% do not respond to e-mail for 48 hours or more while on a business trip.
One third of survey respondents said they suffered significant consequences -- such as missed meetings, lost revenue, irate customers, disappointed family members and even job termination -- as a result of not having timely access to the Internet while on the road.
While business travellers predictably identified airports (77%), hotels (76%) and airplanes (60%) as the places where they most need hotspots, they also expressed a desire to have wireless Internet access in automobiles, trains and hospitals, Intel said.
Meanwhile, 70% of the respondents said they intend to buy a WiFi-enabled notebook when they make their next notebook PC purchase.
Market research firm IDC predicts that wireless-enabled notebooks will represent 42% of all mobile PC sales in 2003 and 95% in 2006.
"Road warriors were the first consumers to make cellphones part of their daily business lives more than 20 years ago, and WiFi is following a similar life cycle," said Peter Choong, country manager, Intel Electronics (M) Sdn Bhd.
"Right now, we see business travellers and technology buffs using WiFi, but the technology will spread to general consumers as they become aware of the benefits of true mobile computing."
The Intel Road Warriors & WiFi survey (www.intel.com/unwire) was sponsored by Intel and conducted under the direction of The Brain Group, an international research and strategy agency.
The Star, Saturday 13/9/03