E-business looks to wireless for rollout

I'll get you, you wascally wabbit! I haven't really lost the "R"s in my vocabulary - only temporarily misplaced them. The reason I'm feeling rather Elmer Fudd-ish is that I've been examining WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and how it might affect those rolling out e-business initiatives. Thoughts of wireless strategies that include WAP and WML (Wireless Markup Language) have me just swimming in the Ws this week.

WAP is an open specification based on XML (Extensible Markup Language) and IP that enables standard data formats and transmissions for wireless devices. WAP is both a communications protocol and an application environment. It is compatible with a variety of operating systems, including PalmOS, EPOC, Windows CE, FlexOS, OS/9, and JavaOS. WAP also supports interoperability among devices.

Those using WAP-enabled handheld computers, smart phones, and other wireless devices can send and receive e-mail, obtain news, weather, traffic, and other information, as well as interact with e-commerce applications, banks, and the corporate intranet, among other things. So, the good news is that WAP works with existing and emerging wireless devices, most wireless networks, and it can integrate with existing development tools and skills, such as Java, ASP, or CGI.

The bad news is that WAP will need to be factored into your existing and future e-business plans. Given its openness, I think WAP will be an easy fit in most environments. And developers won't need an inordinate amount of training before implementing WAP.

I draw two inferences from wireless technology and WAP that will affect e-business. The first is volume. I'm assuming you may have forecast your expected e-business application load based on traditional desk-locked, browser-equipped users.

The expected growth and availability of wireless devices and wireless Internet service providers means that your applications are reachable by a potentially much larger audience - anytime and anywhere. Reaching this growing audience with your e-business means revising average and peak server loads and preparing for increased traffic.

The second implication has to do with application testing strategies. Certainly, WAP will fit fairly easily into the development cycle. However, your application testing strategy will need to account for both traditional browser-based users as well as WML-capable browsing devices such as smart phones.

What we need are a greater number of application-testing tools that support WML-enabled devices. Moreover, testing-tool providers will need to simplify WAP testing facilities. I expect you'll soon see several test-tool vendors announce WAP support.

Aside from preparing for the expected traffic increases and revising your application testing strategy to include wireless devices, I believe you also have to keep globalisation in mind. Wireless devices are taking hold around the world; many countries are well ahead of us in wireless deployment.

Organisations that are serious about achieving a global reach and including wireless devices will need to implement either globalisation products or services as part of their e-business strategy.

Regardless of which industry you're in, wireless technology and WAP will have an impact on your e-business strategy. Considering the shift to an untethered world today may leave you well-positioned against your rivals tomorrow.

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