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Four Wireless Applications Drive the Wireless Internet

Here's a good way to think about new wireless applications: What can mobile users do that can't be done at the desktop? Creating relevant personal applications for the wireless traveler involves the technical realizations of location, time, personalization, and simple transactions. It means translating travelers' desires to know what's nearby, what's open, what's interesting.

The wireless Internet is dramatically defined by four kinds of wireless applications. Each application family differs in history, purpose, network requirements, and interface. The four major application groups, in descending order of popular use, are as follows:

  • Messaging. Using messaging clients on devices like the Nokia, RIM 957, or a Motorola Pager, people send messages. The message channel is not just for messages. European developers write messaging applications, often with a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) toolkit.

  • Browsing. With microbrowsers, people use their web phones, handhelds, and pagers to read web sites that developers write in simplified HTML, WML, cHTML, PQA, HDML, and XHTML Basic.

  • Interacting. Mobile interactive software is custom written for devices. It provides logical applications such as inventory checking and illogical ones such as games. Unlike the other application families, it doesn't require a connection. Working offline, mobile professionals process records, gather information, and connect as needed.

  • Conversing. Aside from directly calling someone, people can call into voice portals such as Tellme or Wildfire to get information from web servers. Software developers program voice gateways in VoiceXML to listen and to speak in the format of a dialogue.

To be fair, we should consider the simple person-to-person phone call as an application. This is not to be confused with conversing—talking to a voice portal, the final category. If you're developing a service-based network or launching a wireless channel from your web server, weight the value of each application family.

Mobile users expect these four services, although the bulk of what people do over the wireless Internet is to talk and exchange messages. Simple person-to-person messages are the digital staple as other applications increase in popularity. Web browsing delivers content from a server, interactive applications run on devices, and voice portals deliver dialogues. Almost universally, XML and its derivatives are used in all levels of application development and content definition. Successful mobile applications deliver simple choices and useful information. Sophisticated applications synchronize and manage content. Wireless applications operate over the air, joining devices and servers. New applications and content give users access to placement, immediacy, and identity—the new virtues of the wireless Internet.

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