Air2Web creates offline component to wireless access

Leading a trend that appears to be gaining ground, Air2Web Inc. announced on Monday a client component to its Mobile Internet Platform that will allow mobile workers to continue to work locally when devices are not connected to the network.

With a wireless network that cannot be relied on and a mobile fieldforce that is often out of coverage areas, an offline component for mobile applications reflects the reality of wireless communications today, said Roberta Wiggins, director of wireless mobile communications at Yankee Group in Boston.

Version 5 of the Air2Web Mobile Internet Platform (MIP) will now provide the offline component for mobile applications. MIP will also include support for Java and x-HTML applications in addition to its own A2WML development environment.

The client platform is actually a blend between working wirelessly while connected to the network and an offline application that synchronizes with the net-work when online, according to Kathy Jaques, vice president of Air2Web in Atlanta.

"This is a hybrid of real-time data delivered to an application framework, rather than having the whole application sitting on the device. The client component uses data accessed in real time or ahead of time to create a just-in-time application. That's a new concept," said Jaques.

Using an application framework or template rather than the entire application will also allow companies to deploy many more applications on smaller devices, added Jaques.

The trend to working offline may have repercussions down the road for the wire-less carriers, according to both Yankee Group's Wiggins and Air2Web's Jaques.

Wiggins said carriers may have overestimated the revenue opportunity for wireless connectivity but new pricing solutions may resolve the issue.

"AT&T Wireless (Services Inc.) is offering unlimited access for $99.99 per month. It may be a lot but it is unlimited," Wiggins said. Meanwhile Jaques believes that giving mobile employees the ability to work offline and to connect intermittently will open up new industry segments such as the oil and gas industry to remote computing and thus open up new opportunities for the carriers.

Air2Web also announced two standalone packages 2Mail and 2Notify. The 2Mail application will allow users to reply to e-mails either when online or when offline on Research In Motion Ltd., Palm Inc., and J2ME-enabled devices. The 2Notify application will allow a central administrator to broadcast alerts to users using SMS, WAP, e-mail, fax, or voice. Version 5 of the Mobile Internet Platform is shipping now. The 2Notify and 2Mail applications will be available in the fourth quarter.

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