Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part interview with Scott Shamp, director of the New Media Institute at the University of Georgia, discussing the future of wireless and wireless content.If Scott Shamp has learned anything about the University of Georgia New Media Institute venture into wireless, it’s that the days of convincing business to buy new tech because it is “new” are over.

“In downtown Athens, businesses are run by business people – not geeks. They are interested in what the WAGz can do to make their businesses better, more efficient, more productive, and more profitable,” he says.

To get insight into what the Athens project – Wireless Athens Georgia Zone, or WAGz, is learning, Local Tech Wire asked Shamp to explain.

What are business users saying wireless means for them?

The WAGz is still a new thing here. It only went live on December 10. So a lot of business are asking the right questions about what it can do for them. In downtown Athens, businesses are run by business people – not geeks. They are interested in what the WAGz can do to make their businesses better, more efficient, more productive, and more profitable. These businesses are working with students to develop business approaches that use this new technology. The business like the potential of the WAGz but it is really going to take more time to move it from something that is just ‘cool’ to something that works for them.

This examination is a major reason we built the WAGz.

What do end users/consumers/students want from wireless?

We are still learning about this as well. Here are a couple of the
preliminary findings we have uncovered.

It seems as though users really want their mobile technology to do things that their stationary (desktop, non-mobile, whatever you call the information appliance they use while sitting at a desk) can’t do. If they are carrying a mobile device, they want it to enhance their experience of being mobile. We have found people enjoy wireless walking tours where they can find out more about a building or location while standing at the location. And they want the information in audio and video format. They want the information to be like a friend talking to them while they move around, not like a guidebook they have to keep stopping to refer to.

And another thing is that for true mobility the laptop computer is not the device of choice. Too big. Too bulky. You need a place to set it up. It takes a while to boot up. Instant on devices that they can carry in a pocket or purse are the most attractive now. A generation that has grown up on cell phones is never going to settle for a clunky mobile device.

Wi-Fi and wireless networks are exploding in popularity across the
country. Hot Spots are getting hotter. You must be pleased that your
project is at the forefront of such efforts. Please explain.

Hot spots are hot. But we are still at the very beginning. The people that are the most interested and involved are still techno-thuists – they love the technology almost for the sake of the technology itself. Right now, we still aren’t seeing the types of compelling applications that change the way that people live their lives.

There is a very big idea behind everything that we are doing with mobile media here – our WAGz and the Mobile Media Research Labs are our ways of getting at something we think is very important. Mobile technology provides an opportunity to craft a new relationship with information.

For the longest time, information was a destination – you had to go
somewhere to get it – you had to go to the library, go to the bookstore, go to the expert, go to the University and later you had to go to the Internet. Information was always somewhere else. Information was a “go to”. But now that place-driven requirement has broken down.

Now we have the potential for information to become a companion –
information can travel with you enriching all the things you do in the course of a regular day. Like your best friend hanging out with you, it can make things more fun, it can make you more effective, and it can make your life better.

Our efforts haven’t focused on the technology – we like the chips,
wires, computers and all. But our real focus has always been on this
new relationship. We are interested in how mobile media is going to
change us by changing the way we do things.

We have attracted a lot of attention lately. Part of what draws people to our initiative is the cool technology, but I think it is the long range goal of understanding the future power of this new communication media that keeps people involved.