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Next-Gen Services
March 2000


Kevin Mayer WAP The Artists Rendering


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Next-Gen Services News

Projecting The Web To New Dimensions
WAP-- The Whence And Whither

A Walk Through The WAP Architecture

Construction sites, particularly those of larger buildings, often present a striking contrast. A peek over the fence reveals a dusty, chaotic scene, with building materials in scattered piles, and bare posts and girders erupting into thin air. But, if you step back a bit, you may glimpse a poster, a crisp, gleaming artists rendering of the finished project.

Such an idealized vision is now available in the realm of wireless Internet access. And, analogously, so is the feverish and apparently disordered construction.

The vision is WAP, the Wireless Application Protocol. It is, in essence, a standard for delivering Internet-based content and information services to mobile phones and other wireless devices. Ultimately, WAP will encompass a range of components including WAP-compatible handsets, WAP servers, and Web servers carrying WAP-accessible content.

Will these components fit together as seamlessly as the elements in an artists rendering? And, if they do, will it matter? For the components constitute nothing more than mere infrastructure. Whether WAP succeeds is contingent on the support of a diverse constituency of service providers, content providers, and developers. How do these groups regard WAP? Will they like the finished construction so much that theyll move in and set up shop?

Some observers have expressed doubts. For example, a report issued by IDC suggested that the hype over WAP has created unrealistically high expectations, and that too much emphasis has been placed on delivery tools, instead of the services users actually want.

Other observers cite competing technologies, including the SIM toolkit, JavaPhone, and Windows CE. In addition, Microsoft has recently allied with Ericsson to explore the possibilities of a single HTML development environment, bypassing the sort of transcoding accomplished by WAP (that is, the translation between high-overhead HTML and low-overhead binary formats).

Finally, there is (as you might have guessed) a lawsuit. GeoWorks, a provider of mobile services and content, claims that WAP infringes on its intellectual property rights. Regardless of its merits, the suit could have a chilling effect.

The most obvious thing WAP has going for it is the need for something like WAP. Consider this: For all the hype weve heard about the Web and e-commerce, and for all the hype over a host of cellular issues, one possibility has, if anything, been understated. The possibility is that most users of the Internet will not rely on PCs, as they do today. Instead, they will rely on handheld computers or cellular phones. Or even WAP-enabled handsets.

Such a possibility has sweeping implications, several of which will be discussed in this months Next-Gen Services section, along with a few relevant news items. For the moment, however, let it suffice to say that the WAP construction project is proceeding step by step, from the faade (handhelds with WAP-compliant browsers), to the physical plant (backend gateways and application servers), to the increasing emphasis on occupancy (developer commitment). As weve already noted, other edifices are arising alongside the WAP project, but WAP presents some unique characteristics, which we will relate presently.

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Next-Gen Services News

Diversinet To Offer WAP-Compatible Security Software
Diversinet will offer digital certificate software to help safeguard services employing WAP. The latest version of Diversinets Passport Cerificate Server (Version 3.0) will provide certificates for secure WAP applications such as wireless banking, stock trading, auctions, and shopping. Version 3.0 does not require additional software on wireless devices incorporating the WAP platform. The product automatically will provide a secure connection to applications, requiring no effort by subscribers.
No. 538, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

PassCall Announces Wireless Internet Platform For Voice And Text
PassCall Advanced Technologies, a provider of wireless Internet middleware applications, has announced the beta release of its GateWave server. GateWave is designed to support every existing telephone standard and Internet site, all on one platform. Once fully integrated with IVR systems (such as voice messaging), the PassCall technology supplies a complete solution for voice or text browsing from normal cellular devices.

In addition, GateWave delivers Internet content to the complete array of current data systems and supports WAP. With its patent pending Internet Mobile Link (IML) technology, GateWave can intelligently convert any Web site and personalize Internet content. Users can navigate the Internet by voice or by simple keystrokes on their phone. Furthermore, they can instantly retrieve customized pages like My Yahoo and immediately access personal stock prices, local weather, or news.
No. 539, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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Infinite Technologies Announces WAPlite Developer Program
In support of their WAPlite Corporate WAP Server, Infinite Technologies announces the WAPlite Developer Program. This program is designed to provide an affordable useable platform and discussion forum for developers of WAP-enabled Internet and intranet-based applications and content. The program includes a developer version of the software as well as unlimited access to the WAPlite Developers Discussion Forum.

WAPlite, a commercially available WAP server, is a software product that enables companies to provide mobile access to e-mail and other services available on the Internet and private intranets as well as other information systems. The server is a WAP gateway supporting WAP 1.1 applications and content. The initial version supports the recently released Nokia 7110, Ericsson MC218, and Motorola Timeport. Infinite notes that support for other devices will follow.
No. 540, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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ObjectSwitch WAP Solution Enables e-Commerce And e-Services
ObjectSwitch, a provider of fault-tolerant infrastructure software for scalable e-services, announced the availability of a WAP solution designed to enable the delivery of e-commerce, e-services, and value-added content to wireless phones and other wireless devices. The ObjectSwitch WAP Adapter allows network service providers, integrators, and network equipment providers to deploy fault-tolerant e-commerce and related applications and services that can scale to support millions of users.

The WAP Adapter can be plugged behind any WAP-compatible server to create dynamic WAP pages or interact with WAP applications, enabling ObjectSwitch customers to develop carrier-grade WAP based e-services and applications. Service providers are not required to create an end-to-end e-commerce solution; instead an existing e-commerce application or e-service that is enabled for Web delivery can be combined with ObjectSwitch infrastructure services and offered to wireless customers within weeks.
No. 541, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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SmartServ Online And Diversinet To Provide End-To-End Security
SmartServ Online, a provider of Web and wireless e-commerce transaction-enabling solutions, announced today that it has entered into a licensing agreement with Diversinet Corp. Under the terms of the agreement, SmartServ Online will incorporate Diversinets Passport Certificate Server into its information and e-commerce platform to provide end-to-end security and digital signature capabilities.

SmartServ chose Diversinets WAP-compatible Passport Certificate Server Version 3.0 because it does not require additional software on wireless devices incorporating the WAP platform. We were looking for a seamless solution for Web and wireless e-commerce, said Sam Cassetta, chairman and CEO of SmartServ Online. By incorporating Diversinets technology on our platform and in our end-user applications, SmartServ ensures end-to-end security transmission all the way from the client, through the gateway, to our server, and back to the client. This added layer of security confirms SmartServs leadership position in conducting secure wireless e-commerce transactions.

SmartServs engineers and developers are responsible for designing unique user interfaces which make it simple for end-users of a variety of devices to interact with SmartServs intelligent backend. With a multi-tiered platform, SmartServ supports Web, PC software, WAP, and Windows CE devices over a wide array of wireline and wireless networks, including GSM-900, GSM-1800, GSM-1900, CDMA IS-95, TDMA IS-136, and 3G systems.
No. 542, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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Nokia Introduces Corporate WAP Server
Nokia announced the availability of the Nokia WAP Server 1.0, a product which allows businesses to securely leverage the Internet in mobile environments and empower employees on the move. The announcement follows the conclusion of a beta campaign in which thousands of companies and software developers participated.

The Nokia WAP Server is an open server platform for mobile applications and lets companies maintain control over end-to-end security of access to data and customer traffic between the wireless network and the Internet or their own internal networks. The server complies with the WAP 1.1 specification and is particularly notable for its security option, which Nokia claims is the first commercially available implementation of the Wireless Transportation Layer Security.

The response of the developer community has been overwhelming, and with more than 10,000 Nokia servers in use in companies of all sizes across all industries, the Nokia WAP Server is already the worlds most widely deployed, said Pertii Lounamaa, vice president, Nokia Wireless Software Solutions. Lounamaa added, Nokia and WAP are changing the way the world does business as companies welcome the addition of wireless connectivity to their information systems. There have been more than 1,000 U.S.-based installations of the Nokia WAP Server.
No. 543, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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Microsoft, Ericsson Partner To Drive Mobile Internet Market
Microsoft and Ericsson announced a strategic partnership to develop and market end-to-end solutions for the wireless Internet, based on a shared vision of convenient and fast access to information anytime, anywhere, from any device. The companies will form a joint company to market and deliver mobile e-mail solutions for network operators. Ericsson will own the majority share of the new company.

As a result of the partnership, Ericsson will provide its WAP stack to Microsoft and will adopt Microsoft Mobile Explorer for feature phones, giving operators, developers, and consumers more choice and functionality in developing, delivering, and accessing wireless information and services. The dual-mode microbrowser displays both HTML and WAP 1.1-compliant content.
No. 544, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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Getronics To Integrate Nokia WAP Server With Mobile E-Business Solutions
Getronics and Nokia announced a global partnership to deliver e-business solutions. Getronics will integrate Nokia WAP technology with its Internet solutions for financial services as well as other industry sectors to provide a mobile dimension to e-business services.

As a result of this partnership, Getronics will market its customer interaction and e-business solution frameworks integrated with the Nokia WAP Server to deliver mobile services to customers. These frameworks include the E-Bank electronic banking framework that is already being used by European banks to deliver Internet banking services.
No. 545, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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Phone.com Delivers UP.SDK 4.0
Phone.com announced the availability of Release 4.0 Beta of the UP.SDK WAP Software Development Kit to the wireless application developer community. UP.SDK 4.0 is available at http://updev.phone.com, free of charge. It provides a WAP 1.1-compliant development environment for creating wireless Internet applications, adding support for WAP 1.1-compliant applications written in both WML and WMLScript.

The SDK includes developer documentation and a sample application source, which simplify the process of generating WML, sending notifications, and handling HTTP request. The Windows COM library for the SDK facilitates integration with industry-standard development tools. Using Phone.coms Developer UP.Link Server, developers will be able to test the complete set of UP.Link 4.0 enhanced services and APIs, including sending and receiving alerts and push data, bookmarking, sending e-mails and faxes, accessing the users address book, and accessing subscriber ID and preference data.
No. 546, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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Projecting The Web To New Dimensions

WAP deliberately parallels the Web model for information access. For example, it allows users to request information by using a URL. Just as important, however, WAP also parallels the Web model of software development. By paralleling familiar Web technologies, WAP makes itself more attractive to application developers, by emphasizing a successful programming model, a proven architecture, and the ability to leverage existing tools (such as Web servers and XML tools).

WAP differs from traditional Web development by accommodating the limitations peculiar to the wireless environment. For example, WAPs Wireless Markup Language (WML, based on HTML) and WMLScript (based on JavaScript) are optimized to conserve bandwidth. Also, WAP displays need to accommodate the limitations of the small WAP browser. That is, the displays are less ambitious. Whereas HTML is used to create pages, WML is used to create decks, which may comprise one or more cards.

These examples are indicative of the overall WAP approach: an appreciation of both the constraints and the unique potential of the wireless development. That is, WAP encourages content providers and ISPs to rethink how they might accomplish information delivery enhance the interactivity of their offerings.

At a practical level, content providers and ISPs will consider how they might structure content and build applications. (For example, dynamic applications may be built by taking advantage of libraries in Perl and C.) Also, they might consider how well their content will translate into formats optimized for wireless transmission. (For example, developers might take advantage of a development kits WAP emulator.) Finally and more fundamentally they might consider how they may accommodate the wireless users unique expectations. (Given the wireless environments time and processing restraints, and less flexible displays, we may see less emphasis on desktop-style Web browsing, and more emphasis on real-time applications and services that deliver small but essential pieces of information.)

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WAP The Whence And Whither

The WAP specifications issue from the WAP Forum. Founded in 1997 by Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, and Unwired Planet (now Phone.com), the WAP Forum released WAP 1.0 for industry trials in June 1998. In June 1999, WAP 1.1 was made available for the first commercial trials. Six months later, in December 1999, WAP 1.2 became available.

From the outset, the WAP specifications have emphasized device, bearer, and air interface independence. Also, allowing development in WML, WAP enables a developers work to be accessible from any network and device that is WAP-compliant. Thus, WAP attempts to deliver on the write once, use anywhere promise.

Refinements to the specifications are introducing push and telephony functionality. With push functionality, users could be alerted to time-sensitive information as it becomes available; with telephony functionality, users could click on a screen display a button on a WML card, say to dial a phone number. (A better alternative than writing down the phone number, ending the WAP session, and dialing the number manually.)

Another important function is duality. With duality, information available on a subscribers handset is also available using a standard Web browser. Such dual access simplifies input- or import-intensive tasks. That is, these tasks can be performed at a standard PC, rather than via the handset. Then, the information appointments, contacts, frequently referenced directories can be available via the handset.

Also, there is universal printing. WAP applications may allow subscribers to fax the contents of their e-mail and attachments to the nearest fax machine. Thus, any convenient fax machine may become the users local printer.

Additional features will be added as WAP continues to evolve. Recent submissions to the WAP Forum have introduced:

  • Over-The-Air Provisioning.
  • Persistent Storage I/F (SIM card).
  • Location Services.
  • Network Management.
  • Broadcast Services.
  • IMT-2000 (3G) Multimedia Capabilities.
  • Corporate Data Access.

Current opportunities to deliver WAP functionality to the market include corporate applications (such as sales force automation and dispatch applications), online services (real-time delivery of content, banking, e-commerce), teleservices (feature control, prepaid services), and personal productivity (e-mail, personal organizers).

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A Walk Through The WAP Architecture

WAP relies on three basic pieces of infrastructure: the WAP-browser-enabled handset, the WAP proxy/gateway, and Web servers carrying WAP-compatible content and services.

  • The WAP-browser-enabled handset has been called the ultimate thin client. It is with this device that users request information and view the content. The requests may pass through the WAP proxy/gateway, or go directly to a Web server (if, say, it is within the network providers domain).
  • The WAP proxy/gateway sits between the wireless network and the Internet, mediating information requests and information delivery between the wireless network and the Internet.
  • The Web servers are the ultimate recipient of the information requests issued by the WAP devices. Content may originate from ordinary Web servers, which may reside within the wireless network operators domain or on the Internet proper (or on an intranet),

If the WAP client relies on the gateway/proxy, the gateway/proxy retrieves and reformats the requested content. The content is then sent to the device. This approach the gateway/proxy approach is the more usual since it will speed deployment and industry acceptance of WAP. Eventually, we may see more emphasis on another approach, one in which the WAP device is in direct communication with a Web server, one that speaks WAP. This server may retrieve content locally or remotely and return it to the WAP device.

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