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Fidelity ready for iPhone, other devices

Customers 'want to do everything' on a handheld device

May 22, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - ORLANDO, Fla. -- Apple's iPhone,which debuts next month, may be primarily a consumer multimedia device and wireless phone, but it is very much on the minds of some IT managers, including Fidelity Investment's Joseph Ferra.

Ferra, the chief wireless officer at the Boston-based investment firm, is tasked with making Fidelity's Web-based investment tools and its Boston Coach car service available on any wireless device. Fidelity started early, in 1998, and now has about 1 million customers, Ferra told IT managers at the Computerworld Mobile & Wireless World conference here today.

The iPhone is one of the handhelds that Fidelity wants to be ready to support by maximizing Fidelity's Web-based investment tools for the size of the iPhone screen and other measurements, as the company does with many other devices.

Fidelity uses management tools that assist in finding the browser being used by a customer, as well as the device model, the mobile carrier, screen size, resolution and the number of keys on the keyboard. All that information helps Fidelity better serve the customer, he said.

AT&T will be the exclusive U.S. carrier for iPhone for five years, but Ferra was quick to take note that Verizon Wireless, AT&T's biggest rival, may have an answer to iPhone in late summer, according to a report in USA Today. Ferra even projected an image of a black, long and slim device with identifying brands blurred out that he said is "probably" what Verizon will produce.

Fidelity customers "want to do everything from Fidelity.com" on a handheld device, Ferra said. "This [device] will be the predominate way that people function once we give them the capability to take advantage of it."

Ferra predicted, without giving any dates, that mobile devices in the U.S. will take on the functions of car keys and payment systems, uses that are almost commonplace in some countries, such as South Korea. "This kind of device will take the place of a lot of functions," he added.

Fidelity has become so keen on handheld wireless uses that it now benchmarks the capabilities of its wireless applications against Amazon.com and eBay, Ferra said. In the past, Fidelity Anywhere judged itself against its financial services competitors on factors such as styles of devices supported, ease of use and lack of problems using them. But going against Amazon and others, Fidelity realizes it needs to keep improving, Ferra said.

Ferra said Fidelity is open to new devices, including those with multimedia capabilities, because it is interested in sending a market recap video from its analysts to investors at the end of each day.

While the iPhone's emergence didn't trouble Ferra, it was obvious that IT managers in attendance at Mobile & Wireless World are less accepting. In a survey question for the entire crowd, nearly 85% said they wanted to have standard mobile and wireless platforms and devices, while the remainder were willing to support whatever device new workers wanted to use.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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