Gartner: There's life beyond WAP

By Kelly Mills, Computerworld |  Development

WAP (wireless application protocol) will morph into a much richer tool within the next 18 months to two years, according to analyst Gartner Group Inc.

"At the moment everyone has got one solution, WAP, but in the future there will be a choice of access protocols," said Geoff Johnson, research director with Gartner's Asia-Pacific Research Center.

Johnson said people will no longer be talking about WML (wireless markup language), the language that allows the text portions of Web pages to be presented on mobile phones and personal digital assistants) via wireless access, but XML (extensible markup language).

"In the future all the different (access) solutions will just be a subset of XML."

In the mobile Internet penetration stakes, Australia is at the bottom of the ladder (1.16 percent) compared with the leader, Japan (32.13 percent).

In Japan, I-Mode, a packet-based service for mobile phones offered by NTT DoCoMo, dominates.

Unlike most of the key players in the wireless arena, i-Mode eschews WAP and uses a simplified version of HTML, compact wireless markup language (CWML), instead of WML.

Johnson said there is a big difference between i-Mode and WAP. For starters, i-Mode is an open system and it is easy to be an informal content provider. However, it is also a proprietary system that is not supported outside of Japan.

Despite the present criticisms of WAP, Johnson said companies should not hold off implementing mobile Internet applications.

"It is important that companies don't defer their deployments, as there is a great learning experience to be had. And most phones available today are WAP-enabled."

"IT managers should forget about the technology and think of the business opportunities, starting with SMS (short message services) before moving onto WAP applications. SMS has a lot of good functions, offers improved productivity and also gets the workforce used to using their mobile."

"(IT managers) really need to figure out what wireless applications would be useful to their workforce and what sort of access they need."

Johnson said that already in Japan, more airtime is used for data than voice, a trend that wasn't expected to occur for another two years.

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