Lotus links promote WAP
New development tools for the Wireless Application Protocol from firms such as Lotus could make WAP more attractive to corporates and encourage wider use of the technology, says Tony Dennis
WAP will support push technology
The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is under attack from many sides, threatening its credibility and therefore its adoption by corporates. However, the appearance of new Lotus software for business users could make the technology more attractive to firms.
Once regarded as the most obvious solution for mobile Internet access, WAP is now being criticised for slow data throughput, lack of flexibility and, most importantly, lack of development tools.
The recent launch of Domino Everyplace Quick Start from Lotus, however, may improve WAP's prospects because it promises to link Lotus Notes' 60 million users.
Fritz Fleischmann, general manager and vice president of Lotus for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, argued that Domino tools to link business users with WAP will promote the adoption of the technology. 'Some analysts say [WAP] technology is stagnating, but we don't think that's true. Things are changing, and we think there is plenty of room for growth in the messaging and collaboration infrastructure,' said Fleischmann.
With its WAP compatibility, Domino Everyplace Quick Start can link with the large volumes of corporate data kept in Lotus Notes databases. Lotus said Domino can also offer a unified email box.
WAP could therefore remove the need to reconcile duplicate versions of a mailbox once a user returns to their desk after travelling. It could allow a single data set to be accessed via a Web browser, a WAP phone, or a regular LAN email client such as Notes or Microsoft Outlook.
However, Everyplace has been built following close co-operation with just one vendor: Nokia. This could be a problem, because the WAP market in the UK is split between Nokia, Ericsson and WAP phones with browsers supplied by Phone.com, such as the Motorola Timeport and the Trium Geo-a handsets. Nobody is sure how well a software tool aimed at owners of the Nokia 7110 WAP phone will work when the data is accessed by a large community of Trium WAP phones, for example.
A major benefit of WAP will be the ability to support push technology which it will gain with version 1.2 - currently awaiting ratification.
Push relies on General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) which provides an always-on Internet connection over GSM - a facility which BT Cellnet launched on 26 June.
WAP version 1.2 will give major applications vendors, besides Lotus, more incentive to produce WAP add-ons for their packages. Jay Marathe, head of consulting for analyst firm Durlacher, said the next-generation GPRS will create a sea change in the use of mobile data. 'But it's important to note you'll still use WAP over it,' he said.
There are already such offerings available for Paintshop Pro and Photoshop so that corporate logos can be converted into a WAP bitmap format. And Nokia has agreed a deal which allows 7110 WAP phones to be supported by Macromedia's Dreamweaver Web site creation software. Thanks to such packages WAP is finally beginning to fulfil its promise but the process has taken far longer than was initially anticipated.
The greatest threat to WAP is the i-mode mobile standard widely used in Japan, and backed by NTT DoCoMo.
I-mode uses compact HTML (cHTML), so it does not require a separate language, unlike WAP which requires the Wireless Markup Language (WML). And unlike WAP it does not require extra dedicated servers - Domino requires the Nokia WAP server. And I-mode is no longer a distant threat since Logica has launched the world's first commercial I-mode gateway, the m-WorldGate. Despite these developments, Lotus denied that I-mode poses a threat to WAP for business use. Lotus director of development, Jeremy Wray, argued, 'With I-mode it's largely consumer - there aren't any business applications.'
- Lotus Domino Everyplace allows WAP phones to link more easily to the corporate Lotus databases.
- Domino can provide one mailbox accessible in three formats: WAP; HTML browser and email client.
- NTT DoCoMo's I-mode is widely used in Japan, and is now WAP's biggest rival. It uses a version of HTML; WAP requires WML.
- Push technology and GPRS will boost WAP, and now WAP add-ons for firms are finally arriving.
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