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A Developer's View of M-Services

A Developer's View of M-Services

As a developer of mobile applications, it's easy to see that the new Mobile Services can be beneficial in helping to create much better adoption of wireless applications. However, I feel that two huge barriers will have to be removed in order to make this a success.

Americans still see the mobile phone as a personal device to keep in touch using vocal communications. They are so used to seeing a presentation format like the Web - full of graphics with an easy-to-use user interface. Like many others, I have been a developer since the "Green Screen" days. It was very easy for me to adapt to the limited text-based content currently available on mobile devices. However, for the average users it has not been well received.

That's why I see Mobile Services as a big win/win for wireless. Making these applications more sophisticated and look more like the familiar desktop environment will help to drive users into adopting these new services. These users, already familiar with the PC environment, will have the nice graphic presentations available for their most "personalized device."

The inclusion of color images, check boxes, pop-up menus, and the other M-Services GUI enhancements will present a far more acceptable user interface. Many of the devices supporting M-Services will have color displays to provide a more appealing environment.

Another big plus for M-Services is standardization for the download of multimedia and other content. Look at something simple like ringtones. Ringtones continue to be a huge favorite of all mobile-phone users. They give you a way to stand out in a crowd, so to speak. At the same time, they've been a constant thorn in the side of developers.

Previously there was no standardization on the formats of ringtones (or too many standards), so any hope of being able to provide a viable service or application to serve a wide user community was futile to say the least. This was also true for downloadable audio, screen backgrounds, video, J2ME, and other desirable content. M-Services now provides a standard platform and gives content providers, manufacturers, and carriers something to aim for.

User Agent Profiles (UAProfs) provide another much-needed piece of the puzzle for developers - a standard mechanism for the device to convey to the application its capabilities, preferences, and limitations. Mobile devices will never have the homogeneity of desktop or laptop computers so we had best support their various features. Users will become excited using applications that maximize their devices' potential, not by bland, least-common-denominator applications.

The ability to pull all this together and offer the user community basic standard objects and interfaces will do wonders for adoption of wireless applications. However, one compelling question must be posed. When will we see devices capable of handling these wonderful applications? This is a big question for wireless developers. We can create exciting new applications and test on emulators, but for what price? How do we get a return on the invested time and effort when we cannot be guaranteed that any device will be capable of running these applications for at least another one or two years?

We have already spent much time and effort building applications that have not been adopted to date by the promised masses. This demise has driven many, many companies to the Chapter 13 line. For us to jump on the M-Services bandwagon, we will have to see some real commitments from the manufacturers as to device delivery dates.

The second hurdle is that to deploy an M-Services application utilizing these new features requires the use of a Download Fun Server (DF Server), which is controlled by the carrier. The carrier configures the DF Server as to which M-Services elements it will allow, which subscribers can receive them, and which content provider sites can provide them.

To ignite M-Services, carriers will be required to be very open and to make it easy for content providers (both big and small) to deliver this new content to their users. But as with text-mode WAP, many carriers may be afraid or concerned about this content and try to limit it to only a few chosen providers, or charge premiums for subscribers to access this content (limiting its adoption), or place outrageous requirements in front of smaller providers, discouraging them from providing material.

As a developer, I'm very excited about the new services. I see it being a big plus, especially since Java is involved, but it's like the saying goes. "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." We are ready to deliver when the devices are ready to receive and carriers are open to allowing all subscribers and providers access to these services.

More Stories By Rod Montrose

Rodney C. Montrose is CEO of AVID Wireless.

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