[Short Message Service] [WAP] [MExE] [Bluetooth] [Windows CE] [Mobile Explorer] [EPOC] [PalmOS]
SMS was originally developed to send simple messages up to 160 characters in length. Being message based, in the same way as e-mails are sent over the internet, it is not suitable for real time transactions. Messages are either sent direct from a PC, often by completing a web based form, or by telephoning the network operator and dictating the message.
SMS is actually part of the SIM Application Toolkit standard agreed by the industry for configuring the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM cards) found within all digital mobile phones. It has since been extended by several vendors to provide menus and simple forms of transaction processing by exploiting the spare memory in the SIM card. As each SIM card is unique to the owner then it can form the basis for secure transaction processing.
Forrester Research say that nearly 120 million Europeans already use mobile phones and they exchange more than 2 billion short message service (SMS) text messages each month.
The WAP standard is the most significant recent development in mobile communications. WAP will enhance the utility of mobiles in the same way as the World Wide Web and HTML did for PCs, in fact most people believe that the impact will be greater as the mobile device is set to become as common as the wallet or the purse - in fact it may well replace these. Siemens launched the first WAP mobile phone, the S25 selling for around £80. They were followed closely in October 1999 by Nokia with its 7710 which sold 100,000 in the first 7 weeks. Motorola's first WAP mobile is its StarTec.
WAP displays web pages that have been rendered using the Wireless Markup Language (WML), a simplified version of HTML with some specific WML additions. This means that web pages need to be defined using WML, or existing HTML pages either pre-converted or converted on the fly. Network providers will be offering this as a service.
However, it is increasingly likely that none of these methods will be used as more and more web content is being held within databases with XML mark-up. XML describes the data content, not how it should be displayed as this is dependent on the user's device. When a user requests a page then the content is dynamically marked-up depending on whether the user is accessing via a PC, interactive TV, PDA or mobile phone.
|The designer of the page layout needs to take into account
the different physical attributes of these devices, in particular the lower
resolution and smaller screens, the absence of mice and other pointing devices,
and often no drop down menus or scroll bars.
A major limitation is the current lower data transmission speeds over wireless networks. The European GSM network runs at a slow 9,600 bps, though this can be almost doubled with compression software. GPRS, due in 2001, will increase the speed to 100,000 bps, and more with compression. Orange however has launched an intermediate standard called HSCSD running at 28,800 bps. Ultimately, the UMTS standard of 2m bps will bring fast internet access. It is due in 2002.
WAP phones and devices will need to handle email, voice mail and file transfers as well as web pages. This requires the appropriate server software to be enhanced or for translation software to be developed. Dialogue Communications for example has developed software to generate WML from Microsoft Exchange, Unix mail and Lotus Notes.
Rumour has it that some manufacturers are making agreements with operators not to support existing HTML pages within the phone but only by means of the operator converting pages to WML on their server. There is concern that operators may be planning to develop portals that control user's access, only delivering up information from specific organisations in return for a revenue stream. HTML pages from other organisations (i.e. the vast majority of web sites) could be blocked or reduced to a blank page on the basis they were "unable to convert them".
No IT development can ignore the actions or possible response of Microsoft. At first Microsoft dismissed mobile phone computing arguing that PDAs running Windows CE were more suitable. Windows CE is too demanding for mobile phones. More recently, Microsoft has acquired microbrowser software from the UK company SNTC and has even joined the WAP Forum but in July 1999 was still stating "We will be compatible with WAP in the short term, but I wouldn't advise corporate customers to roll out WAP devices", Richard Tooth, Sales Manager, Microsoft's Network Solutions Division [quoted in Computing]. Ultimately, Microsoft believes, mobile phones and the network will be able to handle normal HTML. However, in August 1999, Microsoft announced WAP support for its outsourcing services run jointly with Qualcomm.
In August 1999 Palm Computing announced that WAP support would be incorporated into PalmOS for 3rd party licencees. No announcement was made regarding support for its own range of Palm Pilots, the latest of which supports Palm Computing's own 'Web Clipping' technology for accessing specially adapted web sites.
Mobile Station Application Execution Environment (MExE) is a sophisticated standard for defining various services provided by a mobile operator, for example access to a host based diary service. It is implemented in the mobile phone as a Java Virtual Machine which means it requires significant processing power. MExE supports a wide range of user interfaces including voice recognition. It is also likely to include WAP support. The standard is supported by a number of major phone manufacturers but it may be some years before it appears in handsets.
The advantage of a common standard is that users will be able to buy any conforming mobile phone or other device and use it with any MExE conforming mobile network. For the network operator they will be able to buy off-the shelf server software as well as save operating costs because many service calls will be done by the user using the mobile device rather than making a voice call to an operator.
Bluetooth is a standard for data and voice radio transmissions to link devices up to 10m apart. It could be used to link devices such as headsets to PCs or hi-fi sets, mobile phones to laptop computers and PDAs, PCs to printers and other peripherals, equipment to diagnostic devices, etc.. It was initially developed by Ericsson for linking mobiles to laptops and later IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba joined to make the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). All contributions belong to the SIG which also owns the rights to the Bluetooth trademark. Since the group was formed, a further 200 companies have joined. These include AMD, Compaq, Dell, Hewlett packard, Motorola, National Semiconductor, Sharp and Samsung.
The current non-cable method of linking devices is by infra-red but this requires line of sight. Bluetooth is not meant to replace local area networks or cordless phones. It is also hoped that with the large number of companies involved (though Microsoft is a significantly absent), the non-compatibility that has plagued infra-red links between mobiles and laptops will be resolved. Further, Bluetooth is a very cheap technology with volume costs estimated to be as low as $5 a unit though initial costs are nearer $25. However to keep costs down, the transmission rate is limited to 720kbps and the range to 10 metres. (Office Ethernet systems work at either 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps). Nether-the-less, Toshiba has demonstrated a prototype system sending movies from a camcorder though there is some loss of quality.
If Bluetooth was to succeed the future is one where all sorts of devices could connect without the need for costly or inconvenient wiring. For example, home appliances could link into the home LAN and thence to the Internet. They could then summon technical assistance and remote diagnostics. Pace, the maker of Digital TV set-top boxes is going to make a set-top box with a hard disk that its says could go under the stairs and act as a hub for a home LAN. PDAs could link to mobiles or fixed phones and then to the Internet allowing people in your office to view your diary. Eventually groups of devices could dynamically form Piconets - i.e. LANs - on demand.
Issues to be resolved include security, how to uniquely identify individual devices, say in a crowed office or busy railway station, conflicts with non Bluetooth devices using the same frequency band (2.4GHz).
Rival standards to Bluetooth are IrDA's (Area Infra Red (AIR)), HomeRF (Shared
Wireless Access Protocol (SWAP)), IEEE 802.11 (wireless Ethernet) and IEEE
1394 (wireless home networking). Air is similar in capability and cost less
to manufacture but is more directional. HomeRF has a greater range and twice
the speed of Bluetooth and a slightly higher cost. Wireless Ethernet
has a much longer range and much higher data rate but devices will consume
more power and cost more to make. The IEEE 1394 is for wireless networking
between home computers and entertainment and other devices at 400Mbps at
distances of up to 12m with a direct line of sight and 7m through walls.
Windows CE is Microsoft's operating system which comes in 2 flavours for keyboard PDAs and for Handheld palm devices. As the name implies, it aims to have the look and feel of its bigger Windows 9x cousin. Ultimately Microsoft would like to see Windows CE in a wide range of devices from mobile phones to televisions and household appliances. In fact the initials CE are believed to stand for Consumer Electronics.
Windows CE applications include Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket PowerPoint (viewer only), PC to PDA file synchronisation, Pocket Internet Explorer, and Pocket Outlook (Calendar, Tasks, Inbox and Contacts).
Windows CE has been used in PDAs from Casio, Everex, Hewlett Packard, LG, Samsung, Sharp and Philips amongst others.
Whilst favoured by corporates because of its close affiliation and integration with MS Windows, it has failed to gain a significant market share. In the US that has gone to PalmOS and in Europe looks like going to EPOC.
Windows CE on a Keyboard PDA
Windows CE on a Pen Based PDA
This is a recent (December 1999) announcement from Microsoft. It is a microbrowser that was acquired from xxx and will be available on a number of hardware and operation system platforms. Besides web browsing it provides e-mail and PIM facilities. One early adopter will be Ericsson who will use it in mobile phones with additional WAP functionality.
EPOC was initially developed over 16 years ago by Psion and was subsequently adopted for its range of keyboard driven PDAs. Later EPOC was licensed to other companies and eventually was spun off as a separate company called the Symbian Consortium which had Ericsson and Nokia as well as Psion as the main partners. Later Motorola and Matsushita joined and more recently 3Com has joined suggesting it sees the 32 bit EPOC operating system a better migration path than further developing its own 16 bit system, despite having sold over 1m devices. EPOC now focuses on the consumer mobile data appliance market. This included smart (or feature) phones, more sophisticated mobiles, and PDAs. Symbian also has technical partners such as Oracle and Sybase providing infrastructure software. Licensing fees are $5 per unit for a smartphone and $10 for a communicator.
As EPOC is a 32 bit object oriented operating system it is very modular and robust. Subsets can require as little as 4MB and the full functionality needs 12MB of memory. A GUI is provided as well as support for long file names, pen based operation, IrDA compliant infra-red communications, and 100% pure Java applications. Using Win 95 software, files can be synchronised to a PDA using Windows Explorer to drag and drop. Common file formats in Microsoft, Lotus and Corel Office Suites are converter and there is also synchronisation with Lotus Organiser and MS Schedule+. Applications include a diary, word processor, spreadsheet, database, drawing program, voice recording, email and web browsing.
Besides the Psion 5mx range, EPOC has been used in the Geofox One PDA, the Ericsson MC218 mobile companion, the Ericsson R380 mobile phone which has a WAP browser, and the Philips Ilium Accent mobile companion.
EPOC's efficiency and low cost means it has great potential especially as more sophisticate applications are developed but its current limitations is that is only runs on Arm3 processors though support for other architectures is under development.
Th PalmOS operating system was developed by 3Com's Palm Computing Platform division for 3Com's Palm Pilot range of PDAs of which it has sold many millions, especially in the US. Whilst PalmOS has also been adopted by Qualcomm and Symbol, and there are licensing agreements with Nokia and Sony, its use has been mostly restricted to the Palm Pilots. Over 17,000 software developer kits have also been acquired and many specialist applications are available.
More recently 3Com has joined the Symbian Consortium, suggesting it sees the 32 bit EPOC operating system a better migration path than further developing its own PalmOS system. Other commentators think that 3Com with its PalmOS is in the strongest position to become the de-facto operating system for mobiles and handheld devices.
|Palm Computing has developed software called
Web Clipping that allows specially adapted
web sites to send information to Palm Pilot VIIs. The challenge for the company
is to sign-up web sites that will implement Web Clipping. In August
1999 Palm Computing announced that WAP support
would be incorporated into PalmOS for 3rd party licencees. In the long run
Palm Computing is likely to move to WAP as this standard is gaining support
by the day.
3Com, Palm Computing's owners, announced in January 2000 that it will IPO 4% of Palm Computing worth $368m, with more shares to be sold in 6 months time.
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