[InfoWorld] WAP draws criticism

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From: Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 16:17:49 PST

[Been meaning to post this for a while. I should check if he's ever
downloaded 4K's indictment :-]

Friday, Mar. 10, 2000 1:01 pm PT
Wireless Application Protocol draws criticism
By Ephraim Schwartz and Dan Briody
EVEN AS SUPPORT among vendors for the WAP (Wireless Application
Protocol) grows, so do claims that the wireless transmission
technology is insufficient -- and many of those criticisms are coming
from the WAP Forum's own membership ranks.
David Rensin, CTO at Aether Systems, a handheld infrastructure
developer in Owings Mills, Md., ignited a fierce debate at this
week's Mobile Insights conference in Palm Desert, Calif., when he
declared that "WAP is dead."
Chief among his complaints was the necessity for rewriting the Web
sites in WML (Wireless Markup Language) for every device a
WAP-enabled Web site is sent to. WML is used as a technique to get
content from an HTML Web site using WAP onto small-screen devices.
"You have to rewrite the same Web site for a four-line cell phone
display and again for an eight-line display," Rensin said.
Aether's ScoutWeb technology, which it gained this week with the
acquisition of Riverbed Technologies, uses a technology that competes
with WAP in order to downsize Web sites for PDAs (personal digital
assistants) and cell phones.
"The problem [with WAP] is content. Redoing a Web page for multiple
sites on different devices is a nightmare," according to Rensin.
Microsoft, another member of the forum, believes that WAP is a
transitional solution.
"I want to write XML and have XML in my business applications. To
their credit [WAP is] opening [e-business] for low bandwidth devices,
but moving forward it is a different story," said Phil Holden, group
product manager for Windows CE at Microsoft.
While one analyst said he found Rensin's comments a bit extreme, he
did admit there is room for improvement.
"I wouldn't go so far as to say WAP is dead. But the idea that an IT
manager or Webmaster should have to learn WML to create a WAP site is
hogwash," said Rob Enderle, chief analyst at Giga Information, in San
Jose, Calif. "The idea that WML replaces HTML is silly."
According to Enderle, there are enough differences between WML and
HTML that it is not a "slam dunk," that if you are familiar with one,
you know the other.
"Right now, Yahoo has to write 20 versions of its site," Enderle said.
Meanwhile, the WAP Forum is not surprisingly defending its turf.
"Saying that WAP is dead is a great exaggeration," said Scott
Goldman, CEO of the WAP Forum. "I think when you have a standard like
WAP in development you will always get people to try to punch holes
in the standard, for whatever reason."
Goldman said that the criticism of WAP's lack of robustness is
unfounded, and he cautioned against getting too excited about
next-generation, high-bandwidth technologies such as 3G.
"When you have high bandwidth, those systems will be in demand from
users," Goldman said. "But WAP will continue because it helps with
spectrum management and will allow room for growth in both voice and
Lost in the standards debate are the content providers, whose Web
sites are directly affected by whichever standard emerges victorious.
Most are forced to comply with any and all delivery methods if they
want their content to be available anytime, anywhere.

"We have to take a neutral approach," said Nina Zagat, co-founder of
the Zagat Survey restaurant guides. "We want to be able to work with
all of them."

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