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¡ôWireless Application Protocol(WAP)
Handhell devices are more limited than desktop computers in several important ways. Their screens are small-perhaps a few inches square or able to display only a few lines of text-and they¡¯re often monochrome instead of color. Their input capabilities are limited to a few buttons or numbers, or entering data takes extra time, as happens with a personal digital assistant¡¯s (PDA) handwriting-recognition capabilities. They have less processing power and memory to work with, and their wireless network connections have less bandwidth and are slower than those of computers hard-wired to fast LANs.
The Wireless Application Protocol(WAP)was designed to make it easier to create networked applications for handheld devices despite those drawbacks. WAP is a standardization effort by the Wireless Application Protocol Forum Ltd, an industry association comprising more than 200 vendors of wireless devices, services and tools. The goal of the WAP Forum is to provide a set of specifications that allow developers to write Internet-enabled applications that run on small form-factor, wireless devices. Typically, these devices are smart phones, pagers and PDAs.
A handheld¡¯s constraints mean that it¡¯s usually impossible to directly port a desktop application to a wireless handheld device. For the same reasons, it¡¯s difficult to directly access most Web sites with a handheld device. Web applications are traditionally designed based on the assumption that visitors will have a desktop computer with a large screen and a mouse. A smart phone can¡¯t display a large color graphic and doesn¡¯t have point-and-click navigation capabilities. Programmers need to rewrite applications, taking into account the limitations of these devices, and design Web sites so that handheld users can access them.
But the handheld device market consists of many different devices running on competing operating systems:3Com Corp.¡¯s Palm OS, Psion PLC¡¯S EPOC operating system, Microsoft Corp.¡¯s Windows CE, Motorola Corp.¡¯s FlexOS, Microware Systems Corp. ¡¯s OS-9 and sun Microsystems Inc. ¡¯s Java, for example, Handheld applications also need to run over a variety of wireless network architectures, such as Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD),Code Division Multiple Access(CDMA),Global System for Mobile Communications(GSM),Flex(Motorola¡¯s one-way paging protocol), ReFlex (Motorola¡¯s two-way paging protocol).
In order to create a common programming environment that would let a developer write one application that runs on multiple devices and networks, the WAP Specification Suite was born.
What makes WAP work as a de facto standard is that major players in the wireless market all support the specification.
Jill House, an analyst at International Date Corp. (IDC),lists three of WAP¡¯s strong points: ¡°It¡¯s got industywide support, it¡¯s nonproprietary and it¡¯s wellsuited to the devices it¡¯s being ported to.¡±
WAP is important, House says, because more and more information is going out over the wireless network.. Recent IDC reports predict that sales of smart-just one type of device that supports WAP-will reach 2.6 million units in the U.S. and 539 million units worldwide in 2003.
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