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Introduction to the Wireless World Part I

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WirelessDevNet.com managing editor Bryan Morgan will be a regular contributor to InformIT on wireless application development topics. This two-part introduction presents the technologies, platforms, and issues that present challenges to mobile application developers.

WirelessDevNet.com managing editor Bryan Morgan will be a regular contributor to InformIT on wireless application development topics. This two-part introduction presents the technologies, platforms, and issues that present challenges to mobile application developers.

Bryan Morgan is the founder and managing editor of the Wireless Developer Network.

Welcome to the first in a series of articles I'll be writing for InformIT on wireless communications and wireless application development! These articles will explore the wide variety of wireless technologies and products, with an emphasis on application development. By now, you're probably familiar with successful mobile devices such as those based on PalmOS and Windows CE. In addition, you may be an avid user of the wireless Internet via Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) enabled mobile phone. If you're a professional application developer, the chances are very good that, at some point in the near future, you'll be asked either to develop a wireless application from scratch, or to "wireless-enable" an existing application for mobile users or remote members of your company's workforce (salespeople, repair staff, and so on).

Before beginning in earnest, I wanted to lay the groundwork in my first two articles by explaining the variety of communications, platform, and development-tool options currently available. In this article, I'll begin by addressing what a wireless application is, what technologies are available, and what special issues must be handled that make this type of application development unique. I won't delve into any details just yet; instead, I'll focus on laying out all the issues before moving forward.

What Is a Wireless Application?

A wireless application can be defined as any application that interoperates with other applications or server processes via the modern marvel known as wireless communications. A much broader definition—more accurately referred to as a mobile application—is an application accessed via a mobile computing device such as a PDA, laptop, or phone. Note that mobile applications don't necessarily have any sort of wireless communication capability. Information could be interchanged with a server via a process known as syncing, commonly used with PDAs. Like their traditional client/server counterparts, wireless apps can be either thin client (such as WAP, AvantGo, or some other technology) or thick client (developed using C, Java, Satellite Forms, and/or wireless middleware).

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