At this year's DemoMobile 2004 conference in San Diego, the pulse of the wireless industry is registering a move toward service-based computing, which is about delivering applications and data from a managed platform to a variety of secure devices.
This concept of service-based computing moves the focus from innovation at the device level to the software architectures that support those devices, according to Chris Shipley, executive producer of Demo Conferences.
"It is not about the device," said Shipley. "Service-based computing puts the onus on the service provider ... and requires simplicity at the endpoint device. It is the future model for all computing and communications."
Some of the vendors demonstrating at DemoMobile include Route One, which showcased its Mobi device and software that delivers desktop computer data and applications to mobile devices anywhere there is cellular, Wi-Fi, or wired Internet access. The Mobi devices run Windows CE or XP and Mobi software with no other applications running on the mobile device. Mobile users log on to the service, which then establishes a secure peer-to-peer session over Wi-Fi, cellular, or wired through which to deliver any application remotely over the Internet while the data remains at the office.
Another demonstrator, apps for phones, introduced an easy-to-use RAD (rapid application development) tool designed to simplify application development on Java phones. The tool, named the same as the company, provides a visual design environment for creating applications to run on J2ME phones.
"It is a RAD tool for non-programmers. You don't need to know Java to use it," said Bill Colwill, vice president of business development at apps for phones.
The tool integrates with Web services to import data. For example, it can pick up a WSDL file, read the file, and build tables for you based on data in the WSDL file, Colwill said.
One current challenge with developing apps for J2ME is that the UI is rendered differently on different models of phones, he said. So if a developer designs an application for one type of phone, much time is wasted having to port and reconfigure the application for each device.
Apps for phones solves this problem by using its own text and list boxes rather than what comes with J2ME, Colwill said.
"What you see on the emulator is what you will see on the phone, regardless of device size or type," Colwill said.
Meanwhile, Always On Wireless at the show launched a portable base station designed to bring Wi-Fi to dial-up users. The device, dubbed the WiFlyer, supports both dial-up and broadband connections.
"The whole dial-up community has been ignored by wave of Wi-Fi products," said Rudy Prince, CEO of Always On Wireless.
Offering support for dial-up, in addition to broadband, is important because business travelers often find themselves with only a dial-up connection, Prince said.
"There still will be 100 million dial-up users worldwide in two years," said Prince.
The WiFlyer plugs into a standard telephone line or Ethernet cable, creating a personal or sharable Wi-Fi hotspot.
For security, the device supports WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), 128-bit encryption, a built-in firewall, and password protection.
Also at the show, Skype Technologies SA officially launched its Skype for Pocket PC 1.0, which lets handheld device users make free unlimited Internet voice calls from any Wi-Fi hotspot.