BEA touts mobile future

Expanding its efforts to make XML more accessible to a broader array of developers and users, BEA Systems Inc. is in the early stages of developing a mobile computing strategy around the self-describing, data-neutral file format.

At the core of BEA's strategy is an add-on module to its application server that leverages the asynchronous XML-tagging architecture BEA created for its Workshop development tool. That add-on module keeps track of a mobile device's data access on the application server and can be used to more efficiently deliver rich data types to lightweight mobile clients.

"On the server, we took advantage of the fact that WebLogic Workshop made it very easy to write stuff that basically listens to and sends an asynchronous XML document," said Adam Bosworth, vice president of engineering at BEA in San Jose, Calif. "These applications fundamentally are using message-based ways to talk to the server."

The BEA server would then communicate with a mobile application developed in Workshop, which includes support for extensions to ECMAscript to create native XML data types that can access any XML variable using dot notation rather than APIs or subscripts, Bosworth said.

This extension, which has been submitted as a standard extension to ECMA, is crucial to overcoming the inherent limitations associated with creating rich-client applications on devices that have limited amounts of memory and battery life and that operate in bandwidth-challenged environments characterized by intermittent connectivity. At the same time, applications that leverage Workshop can run equally well in online or offline modes, Bosworth said.

According to Bosworth, the ECMAscript extensions in Workshop are only the latest development in the ongoing effort to make XML more accessible to developers using what he calls "compile byte code."

"Up until now, there has not been a good procedural way for corporate developers to deal with XML," Bosworth said.

"The use of mobile applications has not developed as quickly as we had hoped. This is certainly a valid use of the application server and prepares [BEA] for a potential future market," said analyst Michele Rosen, program manager of application development and deployment at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

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