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Interacting with Applications

Wireless interactive applications and transactional systems are very useful to business. Wireless business applications can be as specific as vertical market dispatch applications, or as comprehensive as m-commerce (mobile commerce) systems.

Wireless vertical market applications are custom programs written for specialized markets that have a domain of expertise. Unlike horizontal market applications like electronic mail, wireless vertical market applications are customized. Examples of vertical market applications include customer processing of rental car return at an airport, dispatch for field service organizations, remote telemetry, or alarm monitoring. They often have software components for signature capture, scanning verification, or bar coding, frequently using an onboard database that works with a remote server. Vertical market applications are produced on a return on investment (ROI) basis. The applications have the advantage of providing a complete solution, avoiding generalized marketing and development costs. Applications are small. Billing is measured in fractions of a penny. Access is through devices that fit in your hand.

Interactive applications are the most complex level of wireless development to master. Unlike the other application families, developers must write code for the client device, requiring familiarity with the underlying OS of the mobile device. They're appropriate for handhelds and large memory devices. The development environment provides access to the device class libraries by programming in a language like Java for J2ME, C++ for the Palm OS, or object-oriented C for BREW. If you're lucky, you'll find a Rapid Application Development tool for your platform such as Pumatech's Satellite Forms. These tools shave off weeks of development time. To make the application operational, developers must usually write server code, primarily to exchange content. The chief disadvantage compared to a browser solution is that applications are device-specific, although there are third-party tools that help you reach a set of devices. Java is somewhat portable in wireless J2ME platforms, but the BREW device architecture is totally portable and distributable.

We're entering the era of social applications. Keeping in mind security and privacy systems—any device can potentially connect with any other over the wireless Internet. An original peer-to-peer application—walkie-talkie voice calls on a personal radio phone—lets members collaborate to share voice and determine the best way to share data for a collaborative goal. Conventionally, multiple clients communicate with a server. However, wireless devices can operate directly with one another without using a server or even a relay tower. These peer-to-peer applications are the promise of Bluetooth PANs. Emerging collaborative and synchronizing applications must be designed to operate distributed, work peer-to-peer with other wireless devices, or perform transactions using added security software. Some standard interactive applications, often bundled with wireless devices, give some idea of the interactivity expected. The Personal Information Management (PIM) applications include address book, date book, to-do list, memo pad, calculator, mail, and expense report. Instead of a cable, newer software designs perform over-the-air synchronization to distribute code and coordinate data. In this emerging form of wireless application design, content such as group calendars may be coordinated with a master calendar server or simply distributed with SyncML, where each person is master of his or her own resources.

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