Book Review: All About WAP

Tuesday Nov 21st 2000 by David Fisco
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Wiley's new book provides a good introduction to the wireless application protocol for nontechnical executives, but may not be as useful for those already in the know.

Book Information
The Wireless Application Protocol: A Wiley Tech Brief

By Steve Mann and Scott Sbihli

Published September 2000, Wiley Computer Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; ISBN 0471399922
224 pages, softbound, $23.69 USA/$46.50 Canada
To buy this book, click here.

The wireless application protocol (WAP) allows mobile users to access a variety of Internet content and services. While optimized for the constraints of small, less-powerful devices such as cellular telephones and handheld devices operating with limited bandwidth, WAP manages to offer security and device-independent computing. For a short, nontechnical introduction to this quickly evolving technology, read The Wireless Application Protocol: A Wiley Tech Brief by Steve Mann and Scott Sbihli.

Mann is a software developer and writer. His credits include Programming Applications with the Wireless Application Protocol (see Additional Resources box at end of article) and Advanced Palm Programming: Developing Real World Applications, both published by Wiley Computer Publishing. Sbihli works for Dynamis Solutions Inc., a consulting company with offices in Southfield, Mich., Phoenix, and Cincinnati, (www.edynamis.com) that develops mobile solutions for the enterprise.

In The Wireless Application Protocol, Mann and Sbihli paint with broad strokes. Written in a whitepaper flavor, the book touches on the architecture and history of WAP, the user experience, some basics on content development, a few brief profiles of enterprise applications, and a discussion of WAP's future.

Technically savvy readers won't find much new information in The Wireless Application Protocol. However, executives and managers who have little knowledge of wireless technologies but want to learn about the field will find a gentle introduction. Whether discussing various WAP client hardware products or the deck-of-cards nature of WAP application development, the authors merely skim the surface--making it quite a painless experience for nontechnical readers.

The book contains a reprint of the WAP's wireless markup specification. One must wonder why this specification was included in a nontechnical introduction, especially when it is available from the Wireless Application Protocol Forum's Web site. Perhaps it was tacked on to add bulk to the book--the specification covers 80 of its 224 pages--in the hopes that more pages would make it more appealing.

If this is the reasoning, it will probably backfire. The type of manager who should peruse The Wireless Application Protocol has minimal reading time and values terse information. Those interested in the standard should purchase Wiley's Official Wireless Application Protocol: The Complete Standard with Searchable CD-ROM (see Additional Resources box). It features the entire standard, including the wireless markup specification.

The Wireless Application Protocol has a limited shelf life. Much of the WAP architecture and fundamentals of development will remain relatively constant, but the microbrowsers (slimmed-down browsers developed for smaller, nondesktop/laptop devices) and hardware (currently includes cell phones and handhelds) will evolve rapidly. Yet Mann and Sbihli devote a whole chapter to such ephemeral topics as microbrowsers, brochures of WAP-enabled gadgets, and a list of WAP content sites.

Chapter 10, The Future of WAP, provides an objective discussion of this technology. The authors entertain some thought-provoking questions, including: As devices mature, will WAP remain important? As handheld screen real estate expands and wireless network connections gain speed, will the world really need WAP? Or will the handheld browser of tomorrow be as powerful as today's desktop variety?

So, what if you are comfortable with WAP basics, but need a more comprehensive book? Wiley Computer Press has several offerings. Experienced Web programmers looking to transition into WAP development should read Steve Mann's Programming Applications with the Wireless Application Protocol. Web designers wishing to create a more PC-like user experience on mobile devices should explore Designing Wireless Information Services. Finally, network engineers should examine Wireless and Mobile Network Architectures.

And what are technical folks to do with The Wireless Application Protocol? Well, the holidays are just around the corner. If the decision makers at your company aren't up to speed on wireless technology and you believe it should be moving into WAP, give your boss an early present. //

David Fisco is an Internet media consultant and developer. He can be reached at feedback@davidfisco.com.

Additional Resources

Additional Articles:

"On the edge with WAP"
Wireless access protocol is coming on strong in the race to provide Internet content via small-screen, wireless devices.

Cahners In-Stat Research Highlights: Wireless LANs set to take off
Previously considered too slow and too expensive, wireless LAN enhancements have made IT managers feel more comfortable with the products.

Books:

Broadband Telecommunications Handbook, by Regis J. Bates, (ISBN 0071346481)
Different approaches to the use and application of telecommunications' principles, concepts, and guidelines and new approaches to the use of voice and data communications.

Data & Telecommunications Dictionary, by Julie K. Petersen, ISBN 0849395917
A technical reference for the data and telecommunications field.

Designing Wireless Information Systems, by Johan Hjelm (ISBN 0471380156)
A how-to guide on creating Web sites for mobile devices, including explanations on how the new technologies will work with existing database applications and systems development.

Handbook of Emerging Communications Technologies: The Next Decade, by Rafael Osso, ISBN 0849395941
Comprehensive coverage of upcoming developments for technologies that are expected to have a major impact in communications technologies.

Manager's Guide to Wireless Telecommunications, by Ron Schneiderman, ISBN 0814404499
Explains many of the growing options available for businesses, as well as some of the emerging and developing wireless communications products and services.

Mobile Computing: the eNetwork Wireless Solution, by IBM Redbooks, ISBN 0783412856
Helps you to understand the functionality included in the latest releases of IBM eNetwork Wireless Gateway and Client, IBM eNetwork Emulator Express, and IBM eNetwork Web Express products.

Programming Applications with the Wireless Application Protocol: The Complete Developer's Guide, by Steve Mann, ISBN 0471327549
How to develop WAP-aware programs, including the client and server sides of the transaction.

Remote Access Networks & Services: An Internet Access Companion, by Oliver Chukwudi Ibe, Cliver C. Abe, ISBN 0471348201
Seeks to maintain a balance between technical and nontechnical readers by avoiding technical jargon to please the nontechies while still including all essential information network technologies and protocols that influence remote access networking .

Sites:

www.phone.com--One of the original think-tanks for WAP

www.wapforum.org--The industry association that developed the WAP

www.searchwireless.com--A search engine specific to wireless technologies

www.allnetdevices.com--News on Internet devices, including wireless gadgets

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