Developers key to making wireless work

IBM launched a Web site on Wednesday dedicated to providing developers with the latest viewpoints on wireless technology and to opening some doors that industry analysts say could be key for helping wireless services reach a mass audience in the U.S.

IBM currently covers a variety of technology topics in its developerWorks Web sites and has now added a wireless section to the free service. The company collects articles and reports from industry analysts, reporters and others, attempting to provide tools for customers looking to brush up on specific market segments. By providing such information, the company hopes to pull in customers who have used the service when they decide on buying hardware or software later.

The wireless section could provide developers with insights on how to approach the technology in the future. IBM expects that some users could map out a plan for their company's wireless push, knowing what areas are hot and where gaps with the technology have been left unfilled, according to Dirk Nicol, development and content manager of developerWorks.

Giving developers these types of educational tools is one of the key ways to drive the success of wireless in the U.S., according to Gerry Purdy, president and chief executive officer of Mobile Insights.

"To be able to have a site like this is beneficial for the industry," he said speaking here on Wednesday at a wireless panel discussion.

For Purdy, wireless technology in the U.S. has entered into a catch-22 type of situation where carriers do not want to risk investing in the technology until promising applications appear, and application developers are not focusing on wireless because of a weak, low bandwidth infrastructure. If companies like IBM can provide solid resources, Purdy expects developers will begin to come online and perhaps push wireless into full swing.

To get wireless going, IBM will provide tools that help users sort through different industry terms, protocols being used and the types of wireless technologies showing promise, or a lack of it. Like its other developer sites focusing on Java, Linux and XML (Extensible Markup Language), IBM also provides code for software development where possible, online tutorials and training.

"There is a lot of uncertainty and open questions in the wireless space," Nicol said. "We want to try and cut through the hype and give developers what they need to know."

Purdy and others think IBM's site, along with similar efforts from other vendors, could help bring many of the wireless applications currently being used in Europe and Asia to the U.S. in the not-too-distant future. Purdy said he can envision a day when more wireless devices are purchased than PCs and when more electronic business is done on those devices than on the desktop.

That day, however, will not come until developers design applications that will inspire the industry and users to jump on the wireless bandwagon.