It seems as though every day there is some sort of new display device --
whether itï¿½s a new PDA, new cell phone, IP phone with an XML or HTML
browser, tablet PC, hybrid PDA-cell phone, or some sort of gadget with Web
capabilities. Also, each of these different display devices can have a
different screen resolution, mark-up language support, soft key support, and
computing power. When you attempt to access applications from any of these
devices the experience is often one of frustration since the display was
optimized for the common desktop PC resolutions of 800x600 or 1024x768.
For instance, PDAs or cell phones have resolutions that are one-quarter
of that of a traditional desktop PC. Trying to view an application with lots
of information or large graphics on a small screen will require lots of up
and down scrolling as well as left-to-right scrolling. Just the frustration
level of not being able to see the important information on a single-screen
-- without having to scroll -- often results in abandoning using the
technology or at the very least not realizing its full potential. Thus, what
is required is to design and maintain separate applications for each
potential display device, which can access the application.
The advantages of allowing any type of display device to easily access the
applications in an optimized fashion are endless. For example, suppose you
are an e-commerce site such as Buy.com or Amazon and want to give your
customers ï¿½instant gratificationï¿½ allowing for impulse buying -- not just
from their desktop PC but also from a PDA or cell phone? For example, you
could be sitting in the ballpark and ordering a DVD on your cell phone in
between innings. Or suppose youï¿½re an enterprise trying to deploy a
Web-based application that displays equally well on a desktop PC, a PDA, a
cell phone, or any other display device, granting your employees
ï¿½anytime/anywhereï¿½ access. Unfortunately, in most cases you have to re-write
the application for each specific device to optimize for each deviceï¿½s
screen capabilities. This development time is time consuming, an ongoing
process, and quite costly.
That all changes now. Net6ï¿½s Mobile Transformation Gateway (MTG) and
Telephony Transformation Gateway (TTG) products automatically transform
applications into the appropriate format for each type of device. These two
products simply sit on the network and transform Web-based applications
using rules you define and then send the transformed information to the
device. What this means is that once you have your rules set up, you can
design a single application format, which is then reformatted as needed to
fit each display device.
Installation of both the TTG and MTG was a breeze. We connected a serial
cable to both the TTG and MTG and launched HyperTerminal to configure the IP
settings for each device. Once this was complete we connected the devices to
our network and then utilized their application development environment
called Design Studio to manage our projects containing transformation rules
that we created.
TMC Labs was very pleased with the documentation. All of the important
manuals had tables of contents and an index table for looking up key
features. The layout was very good and very well organized. In addition,
bulleted tips helped point out important aspects. Also included were Quick
Start guides for the TTG and MTG as well as a Design Studio Getting Started
Guide, which was a step-by-step tutorial on using the software. We found
that the tutorial was very comprehensive and very useful in helping expedite
the learning process.
Both the TTG and the MTG have similar feature-sets. Both the TTG and the
MTG support up to 1,400 simultaneous connections and up to 1,000 user
sessions. In addition, you can add more TTGs/MTGs to increase scalability.
They support any HTML application (Web server, enterprise application, etc.)
as well as support raw XML data sources through XSL transformations (XSLT).
In addition the product supports advanced programming by allowing direct
upload of XSL style sheets. One important feature of the product is that it
automatically removes content not supported by the end device (PDA, WAP
phone, IP phone), such as Java applets and Flash programs.
Essentially, the Mobile Transformation Gateway and Telephony Transformation
Gateway are almost identical except that the MTG is a super-set of the TTG.
The MTG includes all of the features and functionality of the TTG (supports
IP phones and Windows CE devices only) but the MTG includes support for cell
phones (WAP), PDAs (Windows CE, Palm, and RIM), IP phones, and other mobile
devices. The MTG engine provides support for any client that supports HTML,
XHTML, WML, cHTML, and XML, while the TTG engine supports HTML- and
Major functions supported on both the TTG and MTG include authentication,
secure connections, secure cookies, VPN support, virtual cookies, and
ï¿½session stickiness.ï¿½ The virtual cookies and ï¿½session stickinessï¿½ are very
important features since the TTG and MTG each act as a ï¿½proxyï¿½ on behalf of
the clients to store cookies and maintain sessions. Since not all devices
support cookies or can maintain sessions, this is a very important
capability and one which TMC Labs was extremely impressed by. For example,
many Web sites require cookies for storing your ï¿½shopping cartï¿½ items.
Without the TTG or MTG to maintain these cookies, several devices would be
unable to using online shopping carts. Several other Web-based applications
also require cookies and/or sessions. We should also point out that both the
MTG and TTG support Server Load Balancers. Requests are sent to the IP
address of the SLB, which sends the request to the appropriate Web server.
Using Design Studio To Create Rules
You would think that designing complex Web pages for various devices
would require an HTML guru. Thankfully through the power of XML and style
sheets you can transform any HTML page to contain some or all of the
original information in the same or different layout with various elements
included or excluded or even additional information added.
We were able to quickly navigate around Design Studio and determine that
Design Studio can be broken down into six major steps:
Since the first two steps simply involve choosing a configuration name,
adding a project name, and then adding a Web page to be transformed, we will
skip addressing these two steps in any detail.
- Create a configuration file and at least one project -- very easy.
- Add a Web page to one of the projects -- very easy.
- Create Identifier rules for the Web page -- slightly complex, but
easier with practice.
- Create Transformation rules for the page -- complex, but again, easier
- Preview the page in an emulator -- very easy.
- Publish the project to the MTG/TTG -- very easy.
Step 3: Create Identifier Rules For The Web Page
Before a transformation rule can be applied to manipulate a Web page, it
must first use the ï¿½Identifierï¿½ rule to identify and match the Web page to
apply the corresponding transformation rules. In this way you can apply
different transformation rules to different Web pages. Since a different Web
page often contains a different layout as well as information displayed, it
may require a different set of transformation rules, thus by using the
ï¿½Identifierï¿½ rule you can match pages as needed. Of course, you can make the
ï¿½Identifierï¿½ rule as ï¿½generalï¿½ or as ï¿½specificï¿½ as your needs require. For
instance, if you have a Web application that has a home page and sub-pages
with almost the exact same layout, then you can probably use just a single
identifier rule that encompasses both the home page and all of the
sub-pages. Basically the rule of thumb is to make the identifier rule as
ï¿½globalï¿½ as possible and only match to a specific sub-set (i.e., a sub-URL)
Step 4: Create Transformation Rules For The Page
Once the Web page has been identified, we then proceeded to test the
Transformation, which we found to be very flexible. For instance, a
transformation rule can apply to just one element on one Web page (image,
table, text, etc.) for one particular device type or a transformation rule
can apply to many instances of an element across several pages for all
One of the simplest Transformation rules is the Select rule. Before you can
perform other transformation rules you must first use the Select command to
select how much or how little of the Web page you wish to display. Simply by
using the Select command, you can very quickly exclude or include various
elements of a Web page. Once you have selected the elements you wish to
keep, you can create your Transformation rules for each display device (WAP,
Palm, WinCE, IP Phone, etc.)
There are several powerful Transformation rules for modifying both the
content and layout of the Web page. For instance, the Modify command changes
one type of element to another type of element. For example, you can change
an ï¿½hrï¿½ element (horizontal rule) to a ï¿½brï¿½ element (break). You can also
replace an element with XHTML/XML code or text; you can add, change, or
remove element attributes.
Similarly, the ï¿½Insertï¿½ rule adds an element, text, or blocks of HTML/XML
code that was not part of the original Web page. The ï¿½Moveï¿½ rule is a very
powerful rule that allows you to relocate an element. This is a crucial rule
utilized to optimize screen real estate, especially on very small screens.
Both the Clip rule and Ignore rule are also very useful. The Clip rule can
be used to exclude an element and any child elements, while the Ignore rule
can actually override a Select Rule or Clip rule, which is useful in certain
situations. The Refresh rule is also rather interesting. Specific to IP
phones only, it allows you to specify that a particular screen is to be
refreshed after a specified number of seconds. So you can for example
display a splash screen with a logo or graphic, advertisement, or a message
on IP phones. We tested this feature and actually displayed our corporate
TMC logo before loading our TMCnet.com
Other transformation rules include:
IMG ALT -- replaces an image with its alternate text. Useful in
instances when the images are large or do not display well on small screens.
Dial Number -- For WAP devices and IP phones only, allows a user to
dial a displayed phone number by selecting it.
Import XSL -- Applies custom XSL to a particular element. By
importing XSL, you can achieve transformations that are not possible via
other transformation rules. For example, you can import XSL that performs
string manipulation on a URL string.
Group -- For WAP devices and IP phones only, this feature groups
links and removes non ï¿½a hrefï¿½ elements that are inside of the grouped area.
Soft Key -- For IP phones only, defines an ï¿½a hrefï¿½ element or a
phone number as a Soft Key. You can also add Soft Keys.
Within Design Studio we created different transformation rules specific to
Pocket PC/CE devices as well as rules for Cisco IP phones. We also imported
some of Net6ï¿½s own style sheets including transformation rules that they
provide on their Web site. (More on that later.) After creating all our
transformation rules, the next step was to ï¿½testï¿½ them using Net6ï¿½s included
Step 5: Preview The Page In An Emulator
The Design Studio supports six emulators, including an HTML/Windows CE
emulator, WAP/HDML, Palm, RIM, Cisco IP Phone, and Voice XML. Simply by
choosing one of these emulators you can view what the Web content would look
like on these devices. This is certainly useful when developing since it
doesnï¿½t require possession of any of these devices.
Step 6: Publish The Project To The MTG/TTG
This final step is a very simple operation, which with a single click of
a button downloads (publishes) the transformation rules in your project to
the MTG/TTG device. If the project already exists, it asks you if you wish
to ï¿½mergeï¿½ or ï¿½overwriteï¿½ the existing rules.
VIEWING THE RESULTS
We proceeded to test our transformation rules application we created in
Design Studio from a Pocket PC browser as well as from a Cisco 7960 series
IP phone we had in the lab. First, we tested our newly created application
viewing it from a Pocket PCï¿½s browser. We should mention that the TTG and
MTG gives us the capability to ï¿½smash leftï¿½ all of the Web content. This is
especially useful on small displays when you need to eliminate as much white
space as possible and view all of the content without having to left-right
scroll in addition to up-down scrolling.
Next, we tested some of Net6ï¿½s own style sheets that they provide as a free
download on their Web site. Some sample style sheets they provide include
Yahoo Yellow Pages, Yahoo Mail, FedEx, Fandango, Dictionary.com, and more.
By simple downloading the style sheets via the Web to the TTG or MTG we were
able to easily view these sites with an optimal format for each display
device, without the need to reinvent the wheel. Net6 also includes a style
sheet for Microsoftï¿½s Outlook Web Access (OWA), which we tested on an iPaq.
Normally on an iPaq we had to scroll left-right to see everything, but not
with Net6ï¿½s style sheet. Everything fits on the page width and we merely
needed to scroll up-down. The old method we were using of synchronizing
e-mail was tedious to say the least. Thus, we were quite impressed with the
usability of using a PocketPC to access our e-mail ï¿½liveï¿½ without the need
for synchronization. Finally, we tested viewing Web content from the Cisco
7960 Series IP phone. It performed flawlessly and as expected.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
There was not much to complain about with this product. It worked exactly
as advertised and did a fine job doing it. We only had some minor usability
complaints. For instance, we could not use the ï¿½Delï¿½ to delete either
projects or rules from the Design Studio application. Also, we would like
the ability to move one or more HTML elements simply by
dragging-and-dropping them to its new location.
Currently Net6ï¿½s product does not support client side style sheets and
attributes. Thus, when we tried browsing via the MTG to a Web page with
style sheets (such as Hotmail.com) using a standard desktop PC, it wasnï¿½t
rendered exactly the same as when browsed directly from the desktop PCï¿½s
browser. However, we are told that Net6 will be supporting client side style
sheets and attributes in a future release. Thus, the user will have a
similar experience directly connected or through the Gateway using a desktop
Cisco and other IP phone vendors are very interested in Net6ï¿½s
technology. Cisco actually OEMï¿½s Net6ï¿½s product and calls it the Cisco CTE
1400. We should point out that the IP phone vendors are in the business of
trying to leverage their IP phones with LCD screen displays and XML/HTML
browsing capabilities. They want you to buy the more expensive IP phones
with larger LCD displays. The question is how do they convince you that you
need a high-end IP phone with a high-res LCD display? After all, if the
customer has the choice between a $500 IP phone with a 1-line LCD display
and a $1,000 IP-phone with a high-resolution 200x300 display, the customer
will have to rationalize this extra cost.
Well, the IP phone vendors can convince the customer of the value of using
the Web capabilities of their more expensive IP phones by enabling the use
of popular applications via the IP phone. We should point out that without
Net6ï¿½s technology, trying to access a Web-based application such as a
corporate directory, or Microsoftï¿½s Outlook Web Access from the IP phoneï¿½s
small LCD display is a nightmare, since as we mentioned Web pages are
traditionally designed with a desktop PCï¿½s screen in mind. But by utilizing
Net6ï¿½s technology the experience can be much improved allowing for quick
e-mail access, access to the corporate directory along with one-button
dialing, and other interesting and integrated applications from the IP
While an IP phoneï¿½s Web browser will never replace the desktop PCï¿½s browser
it is a nice capability to have available. Certainly, Net6ï¿½s TTG helps to
drastically improve the experience of accessing Web-based applications from
an IP phone. Executives and CXOs will no doubt love the ability to quickly
get stock quotes from their phone, view the current longest hold time for
their call center, browse the Web, or even send a quick e-mail message
without the need for a PC. Remote teleworkers and telecommuters will also
enjoy the benefits that Net6ï¿½s Mobile and Telephony Transformation Gateway
bring to the table, since they can access corporate applications from their
IP phones or PDAs.
Another potential beneficiary of this technology is a university, which can
sell advertising space on IP phone screens in student dorms. In the carrier
space, Net6ï¿½s transformation gateways can deliver customized content to IP
phones and wireless devices and offer it as an extra option to an IP Centrex
or IP-PBX service. These are but a few examples of how Net6ï¿½s technology can
be utilized. Essentially, we could sum up Net6ï¿½s technology by stating that
it is the ideal solution to extend corporate applications to any display
Since Net6ï¿½s product uses industry standards such as HTML, WAP, and XML, it
can not only support todayï¿½s display devices, but it is future-proof against
any newfangled device that comes to market. With its simple function, use of
standards, and extensive features, TMC Labs was very pleased with Net6ï¿½s
Mobile and Telephony Transformation Gateways and would recommend it to
anyone looking to alleviate development costs or to anyone looking to extend
the reach of their Web applications to the plethora of Web-enabled devices
that exist today.
To The January 2003 Table Of Contents ]