WAP AND MOBILE DEVICES
Written by: S.S. Ahmed
You must have read my earlier articles published in NetMag, one of which was about
Windows DNA, I am back with yet another technical revelation which is about the most
talked about topic, that is, new mobile devices, M-Commerce, WAP, etc. Doesn’t all
these terms seem to be related with each other? Yes, you guessed it right, they are
linked together in one way or the other. In today’s article, we will talk about mobile
devices and the related technologies, for example, WAP. What’s it all about? Later in the
article, I will also show you how you can connect your PDA to internet.
A time came when ASP hit the software development industry and it was considered to
be the most popular tool for developing web applications and it’s still going strong as it’s
considered to be a cheap solution as compared to other web application development
tools available in the market. Good news is that you can also use ASP to develop WAP
applications. So, what is WAP? WAP stands for Wireless Application Protocol, the de
facto standard for wireless computing managed by a consortium of vendors called the
WAP forum. WAP does for wireless devices what HTTP does for web browsers, it allows
them to become clients in an internet-based client/server world.
WAP is a protocol, a data transport mechanism. In many ways it is similar to HTTP, and
WAP was also built on top of established standards, such as IP, URLs, and XML. But
WAP was designed from the ground up for wireless computing, and was built to
accommodate the unique and fundamental limitations of wireless computing. WAP is a
collection of protocols and standards that make up a complete lightweight protocol stack
along with special markup and scripting languages, which together define a complete
I think the space is limited and I can’t go very deep telling you about the bits and bytes of
WAP protocol. Before you start feeling bored, let’s move on to the general topic of
mobile devices. Every once in a while a technology comes along that simply captures
the imagination. The desktop computer was definitely one of these, as were the
introduction of HTTP, the world wide web, and the recent explosive growth in wireless
communication. And although each of these is exciting by itself, when the three are
merged the possibilities are nothing short of mind-boggling.
Wireless data communication is not a new idea. For years now we’ve been hearing that
wireless communication has finally come of age, only to be disappointed over and over
again. And yet this time we believe what we are hearing. This time wireless computing is
becoming a reality and in ways no one could have imagined.
When we talk about wireless devices, WAP instantly comes to our minds, WAP is the
transport used to communicate between devices and the servers. WAP is a not a genie,
or you doesn’t need to be a genie to explore WAP. If you are an HTML developer and
want to learn how to port your sites to WAP, you should learn WAP and this article can
be your starting point.
Over the recent years, the trend toward smaller and faster devices, coupled with the
need for information access on the move, has paved the way for this new technology
that brings together the two worlds of the web and the mobile phones. All these new
wireless devices were created because public demanded mobility. Mobility is a new
buzzword in the business world and over time, expectations have risen about exactly
what this means. Mobility is the ability to access information and services any time,
anyhow, anywhere. This information might be an email that your boss sent you, asking
for a report, the latest sales figures for this month, or the phone number of a client you
need to talk to.
The WAP services include banking applications online shopping and checking stock
quotes. What we are talking about is extending enterprise applications to incorporate the
mobile client, that is, extending the office to include any location in which worker might
be at home, at a conference, traveling and so on.
The increase in expectations of the mobile public over recent years has been driven by
the rapid development of wireless technology. From mobile phones to PDAs and
handheld computers, the devices being developed have become smaller, more powerful,
and – as consumer demand increases – cheaper. This in turn drives the market forward.
New technologies spread much faster than they did in the past, giving everyone the
chance to experience new services. There is no longer a neat division between different
categories of people. Technology available to businessmen is now equally available to
teenagers, ordinary wage workers. Although the markets for different categories of
people are very different, they can all benefit from new and attractive services. Very
recently, I had chance to travel in a public transport, the wagon was full of perspiring
anguished people, it was hot sunny day, all of sudden a tune of one the latest Indian
songs started playing, the wagon conductor took out a mobile phone out of his pocket
and started talking to some one on the phone. Obviously, I was stunned because this
was a new phenomenon for me. Later, I saw same thing happening in an auto workshop
where I saw the repair man talking on the mobile phone. All I want to say is that these
mobile devices, once thought of as a status of symbol in Pakistan are getting into the
hands of all categories of people. So, the need arises for the training of WAP application
developers in Pakistan. Currently, not many companies in Pakistan are involved in WAP
development. These devices are becoming more compact day by day and more
complex at the same time.
Let me tell you a very interesting story. Very recently, I bought a new handheld mobile
device. I wanted internet connectivity for my new device. I contacted the company that
provided the connection for the device and they told me that internet and WAP services
are not yet available in Lahore. I was astonished to hear that as they had already issued
me a data number which is required to activate the services like internet, mail and fax. I
contacted their help desk several times but each time I got the same reply. Quite
disturbed, I started contacting different ISPs to resolve this issue but every time I
contacted an ISP, I got the same reply that internet can’t be accessed via these new
mobile devices that hit the market in Lahore. Strange!!! Isn’t it?? So, I decided to give it a
try myself. I asked my connection provider to activate my data number. I bought a new
internet connection from an ISP and started experimenting with my new device. I
entered the required internet connection information in the device and voila!!! It worked. I
succeeded in connecting to the internet via my small mobile cum PDA. So, here is a
piece of information for all you enthusiasts out there, don’t believe in what your mobile
phone connection providers or ISPs tell you. If your mobile connection provider has
provided you a data services number, you can connect to the internet using any ISP
connection. All you need to enter is URL of your ISP, your user name and password.
Leave all other fields blank. No DNS settings are required. Though, some phones may
require an IP address and a port number. Ask if your ISP to provide these numbers to
you. That’s it. Now you can browse internet right from your mobile device. Some sites
won’t show up and would ask for a better browser to be installed on your device. Flash
sites won’t appear on your device. Text is beautifully displayed on the built in browser of
mobile device but images doesn’t show up and one has to select the image and press
the ‘GO’ button to see the image. Overall, it’s a wonderful experience to access the
internet via these small wonderful devices.
With the advance of the internet, E-Commerce grew to enormous proportions, online
trading and shopping have proven to be such a success that the goal of business has
become the provision of services that are available from anywhere. On top of this,
number of mobile phones in the world is increasing everyday at an astonishing speed,
with analysts forecasting that there will be more than a billion mobile phones in use
within the next five years and that over half of internet access will be through non-PCs.
The mobile phone has become a part of daily life for many people, and together with a
watch, is the only electronic device that many people carry around everywhere with
them, all day long.
It’s time that the internet moved on from the PC. This doesn’t mean the end of the PC;
radio didn’t kill the newspaper, TV didn’t kill cinema. There is always room for more than
one media. It simply means that there’s more than one way of accessing information
from the internet, and the method you choose depends on who you are, where you are
and what you want. So, this paved the way for M-Commerce. M-Commerce stands for
mobile commerce. You can say that this is a new form of E-Commerce. In fact, it is still
E-Commerce but when it comes to the mobile devices, you name the same term as M-
Commerce. Now let’s get back to the technical side, earlier in the article I talked about
WAP. Any operating system can theoretically support WAP. However, the reality is that
most devices that will require WAP capabilities will be small in their physical size, like
mobile phones and hand held PDA-style machines.
The consequence of WAP devices’ small size is that although WAP as a protocol is
perfectly capable of pushing existing formats such HTML, these devices are essentially
too constrained to properly render documents encoded in these formats, which have
been developed with desktop monitors in mind. A companion to WAP was needed then,
as well as a defined document format that would render sensibly in the constrained
space of small wireless devices.
“And so as wireless begat WAP, WAP in turn begat WML ..…….”, as they might have
said in biblical times had they been writing about content delivery over wireless
networks. The Wireless Markup Language, WML, will strike a familiar chord to anyone
who ever worked with the HTML behind most web pages. In fact, WML is a specific
implementation of XML, defining a markup syntax and structure with which users can
design pages suitable for a small device.
HTML and WML operate on slightly different underlying metaphors. Whereas HTML is
premised on the now-ubiquitous “Page” metaphor, WML rests on a “deck of cards”
metaphor. Typically, an HTML document represents a single web page, but a WML
document represents a deck within which there can be one or more cards. Navigation
within the deck consists primarily of flipping between cards in the deck, either in
sequence or via hyperlinks. Like HTML, a WML document is a text document when
created as a source code. Although this is not a WML tutorial, per se, let’s look at a
simple WML deck of cards, to get a feel for the type of data that server will deliver to
wireless devices. We’ll get up a WML deck with two cards: the first with a greeting and a
link to the second card, the second with some very fictitious “favorite WML pages”.
<?xml version="1.0"?><!DOCTYPE wml PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD WML 1.1//EN"
<do type="back" label="Back">
<card id="main" title="Welcome to my WAP">
<p align="center">I can't say much, since this screen is tiny.<br/>
Why don't you visit my <a href="#fave">favorite WAP links.</a></p>
<card id="fave" title="Favorite WAP Links">
<p align="center">These are some WAP sites I would love, if they existed.</p>
<p align="left"> <a href="wap.cats.com">Tiny cat pictures</a><br/>
<a href="wap.weather.com">The weather</a><br/>
<a href="wap.jellybeans.org">One click jelly bean ordering</a>
Although not identical to HTML, the WML syntax above does have a certain familiarity
Well, I am afraid that’s all for now. In this article, I talked about WAP, WML, mobile
devices and M-Commerce. You could read more about all these issues on the internet. I
hope that you will benefit from this article and get some understanding of how these
newer technologies work.