Chicago-based Curious Network Inc.'s middleware, announced last week, aims to make it easier to tap into the Web from PCs and mobile devices and query databases, officials said.
Curious Network's server, called Multi-channel Access Platform, acts as a translator between back-end data systems and the applications that run on mobile devices, such as Palm and mobile phones, and on PCs. It won't ship until March, but the company plans to launch a Web site to give developers free access to the software next month.
The Java-based server is built using Multi-channel Access Extensible Mark-up Language (MAXML), a technology developed by Curious Networks that translates queries from various mobile devices into the appropriate standards-based code to extrapolate data from a back-end system. The server also consists of a set of interfaces for different device types.
For example, using the MAXML platform a user could access a corporate directory from a Palm and search a Web site for a particular individual's name and phone number. If the server was configured to support voice-activated phones, the user could also access that same data from a phone without additional changes to the original application.
Market research firm The Yankee Group in Boston estimates that 21.3 million users in the U.S. will access data from a mobile device by year's end.
Designing one application that is suitable for a bevy of device formats is a challenge for developers, said Jack Gold, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. Different screen size and data types make transforming information appropriately to different devices very difficult.
"For most corporations, its best to limit your device choices," said Gold. For the short term, writing applications for devices will remain "tactical, rather than strategic" development projects, he said.
Gold also noted that several firms, such as Everypath Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., 2Roam Inc. in Redwood City, Calif., and AvantoGo Inc. in San Mateo, Calif., are also tackling the challenge of streamlining application and content development for mobile devices.
Curious Networks plans to offer its technology as a hosted service and as a stand-alone server. Pricing has yet to be determined.