(Wireless) Device-Independent Content Origination


Internet content and services have to date been targeted at a de facto standard presentation device, a desktop computer. Regardless of differences within operating systems, browser technology, and version, the base-level content has been created in a uniform fashion and to a known and constant set of base requirements. When looking to extend the Internet to the wireless world one is faced with a range of mark-up languages and protocols for rendering Internet content on the range of form factors for wireless devices.

Wireless Application Protocol

Seeking to address this issue, the wireless industry has thrown its weight behind the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). The WAP Forum, founded to promote WAP, is now supported by an expanding group of wireless equipment manufacturers, mobile telephone operators, software vendors, and content companies. WAP has become the de facto world standard for wireless information and telephony services on digital mobile phones and other wireless terminals. It is optimized for small devices and is based on the Internet client/server architecture. WAP introduces a wireless optimized mark-up language, WML, which is a subset of HTML, but introduces new syntax.

WAP has made significant progress since its inception in moving toward being an open standard, but certain obstacles still exist for an enterprise customer seeking to gain interoperability across various device types and across various implementations of WAP servers. Initial work by the WAP Forum did not address certain issues (including security and interoperability) in sufficient depth for the broader user community to be confident of the outcome. The Open Group is already working closely with the WAP Forum working groups to address these shortcomings.

The WAP Forum has further recognized that the WAP standard cannot exist in isolation and has signed a mutual cooperation agreement with W3C to ensure that the work between the two organizations is complementary in nature and enables seamless extension of Internet developments to the wireless environment.

The challenge posed by WAP is merely one example of a much more general problem which faces information providers. It may be acceptable to have specific point solutions to translate from standard HTML to WML for WAP, but this solution is not scaleable as the number of different device types and form factors proliferates. It is simply not possible for information providers to be aware of the specific characteristics of every kind of access device.

Two complementary approaches are currently evolving:

1.       A standards-based approach from W3C, referred to as XHTML, includes facilities to profile both the original content “page” and the characteristics of the device. A single version of the original information is translated either by the server or browser for display on the specific device.

2.       The second approach involves the introduction of policy-based intermediation systems, such as the recently announced WebSphere Transcoding Publisher from IBM. Such systems can and do utilize XHTML to profile content and devices, but are capable of much more, including protocol conversion and content filtering.

The Role of The Open Group

The Open Group should continue its close cooperation and support for the WAP Forum by delivering interoperability test suites and building a world-class certification program. As appropriate, The Open Group should try to bring to the attention of WAP members other initiatives which impact on the WAP standard, and will strongly encourage convergence with XHTML.

The Open Group should use its existing relationships with the suppliers of intermediation technology to ensure full integration with XHTML and common definition of extended transcoding rules.