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View Full Version : The Whole Internet, Everywhere

Jason Dunn
04-15-2002, 12:29 AM
As the South Western Bell DSL ads go: ďThe Internet has evolved. Have you?Ē Try this take on it: The Internet has evolved. Can you use it? Before the recent downturn in the economy, every Internet-related company that wanted to look good had a team of developers doing something with Ďthe wireless Internet,í ĎWAP,í or Ďmobile connectivity.í Today, not only are you expected to have a business model that harnesses the power of the Internet, but you need something that has to do with wireless. Why?<br /><br />When I purchased my current digital cellular phone with a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-compliant browser, I fired it up and took a look around. ďCool!Ē I thought. I could read three lines at a time of the latest news stories. Just for fun, I searched at a retail website for a CD for my sisterís birthday. Not only did I find it, but I could have ordered it through my cell phone. Among the services available from my service provider, I can:<br /><br />ē Read/reply to email <br />ē Trade stocks <br />ē Get weather, news <br />ē Book travel information <br />ē Apply for a loan <br />ē Get driving directions <br />ē Shop online retail stores <br />ē Chat <br />ē Play games <br /><br />Content providers have done an excellent job of setting up an entirely new way to access services over the Internet. No, reading news on a tiny cellular phone screen isnít exactly what weíd ask for, but technology is advancing and someone will find a way to make it easier to use. A new generation of mobile phones and PDAs promises to offer screens with higher resolutions, easier data entry, and faster connections. <br /><br />Realistically, almost anything can be done via a WAP browser. Granted, it is slower and sometimes confusing, but you canít take your PC everywhere. Youíve got mobile Internet access. Arenít you happy? Iím not.<br /><br />My bank is not a national chain. They do have an e-banking website where I can manage my accounts, but they donít offer WAP access to it. There is not enough interest in their users to justify such an expense. The cost to develop an application is quite prohibitive. But I do want to access my bank account wirelessly. Being the gadget addict I am, I have a laptop, PDA, and cell phone. I often hook my laptop up to my cell phone and browse sites just like I would at my desktop. I donít take my laptop everywhere, though. I do, however, take my cell phone and PDA almost everywhere I go. Since my job relates directly to the Internet, I need 24/7 access to my email and internet applications. Of course, I also read articles of interest to me on websites I frequent, manage my bank account, do Internet searches, etc. Itís not dependant on whether the information I want to access is WAP-compliant or not. Un-apologetically, I access the Internet through my PDA with a HTML browser.<br /><br />Browsing on a screen thatís (in most cases) a third or less of the size of the smallest desktop monitor is not exactly easy. Microsoft is trying to make this easier with a mobile version of its Internet Explorer, named Pocket Internet Explorer. This browser takes HTML pages designed for PC viewing, re-sizes the images and formats the text to display in a more readable format on the smaller screens of the devices it runs on. While itís not a fail-safe solution, it is a very useful tool for accessing information on the go.<br /><br />As wireless, hardware, and software technologies advance, users are going to want (and in many cases, do want) to access their information. Whether itís the kidsí soccer website, the veterinarianís website, the neighborhood associationís message board, or whatever, people need to access information thatís in the current standard format of the Internet (HTML).<br /><br />Why not have the same groups of people who are concentrating on using the WAP format simply develop applications to access plain old HTML? To be of considerable use, the HTML pages viewed on these smaller devices would need to be slimmed-down and in some cases reformatted. But this is something that can be done now, with traditional tools. Doesnít it make sense to simply slim down a website vs. investing thousands of dollars to re-develop it on the WAP standard? If mobile devices could browse HTML, the soccer coach could just use fewer images on his website and less formatting in order to allow ease of use on smaller devices.<br /><br />The trend certainly can be pointed in that direction. Services like AvantGo can take almost any web page and trim it down for off-line viewing on a PDA. Microsoftís Pocket Internet Explorer is standard on Pocket PCs, and is expected to appear in some form on the upcoming Stinger phones. HTML browsers are available for Palm devices, though not at all mainstream.<br /><br />In order for this to become a reality, the WAP bell-ringers are going to have to change their tune, and demand HTML compatibility from the mobile device developers. Itís not going to be easy to call off a project when they have invested a large amount of resources in it. Everyone needs to jump on the HTML bandwagon, and start accepting the fact that itís here to stay. The content developers are also going to have to do their part towards making the HTML pages for these devices compatible. On many devices, which use arrows and numeric keypads to navigate through information, the content developers will have to agree on a way to make pages easy to navigate.<br /><br />If developers are going to have to re-format their HTML pages anyway, why not use something that simple, like WAP? Because people want to have access to everything, whether itís WAP-compliant or not. Iíll live with the fact that some things arenít going to show up very well. Donít forget that they can at least show up. <br /><br />Iím noted for not being happy with what I have. Being able to access certain resources via the mobile Internet isnít enough. I want to be able to access anything. Forget these crazy ideas about developing a completely new format for mobile users. Just trim it down. Oh, and make sure my PDA and cell phone can read it, please.