Practical Technology

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The 21st century mobile application


A few years ago, we knew exactly what the future of mobile computing software development would be like. It would be powered by WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), a set of specifications designed to provide low-speed wireless devices with limited screen space, with a means to access information and to communicate and interact with Web services via WAP gateways that bridged the gap between telephony networks and the Internet.

We were so naïve.

Today, with 3G, 802.11g/n and Mobile WiMax (IEEE 802.16e) wireless networks, mobile devices have access to TCP/IP network speeds above 100Mb/sec. The devices of 2008 are as powerful as the PCs of only a few years ago.

Apple’s iPhone, for example, has a 620MHz ARM processor with 128MB RAM and up to 16GB of flash memory running Apple Mac OS X. As John Sullivan, manager of operations for the Free Software Foundation, said of Apple’s closed development system, “The iPhone is not a ‘phone’ any more than my laptop computer is a phone. The iPhone can make phone calls, but so can my laptop. I could call your phone using my voice-over-IP system, and you wouldn’t know the difference. I can even put a card in my laptop that enables communication over a cellular network.”

The same is true of other mobile devices. While they’re not quite the same things as PCs, many of them have all the power of a computer from a few years ago. Other devices—such as Nokia’s N810 Internet Tablet and Intel Atom-powered netbooks like the Asus EEE 901, MSI Wind NB U100 and Acer Aspire One—completely blur the difference between PCs and mobile devices.

This is not a small matter. According to Juniper Research, “The global market for Mobile Web 2.0 will be worth US$22.4 billion in 2013, up from $5.5 billion currently.”

What’s a developer to do?
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