IBM Delivers Enterprise-Level Applications To Mobile Devices

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IBM's WebSphere is an important tool for developing enterprise-level applications and architectures. Deploying application functionality to mobile or sometimes-mobile devices such as PDAs, laptops and smartphones is a necessity now that many workers use these devices to stay connected. IBM's Workplace Client Technology, Micro Edition (WCTME) is a comprehensive platform used to develop and deploy enterprise-level applications to a variety of mobile client devices.

Technical Editor

WCTME uses standards-based middleware and integrates with a variety of development tools including WebSphere Application Developer and Site Developer to create a deployment platform. Compatibility is achieved by using Java to link the tools' various IDEs and the Web services toolkit. By creating a common environment for application and device development, IBM ensures that applications will provide equal functionality on a desktop PC or PDA.

IBM's service management framework eases this programming experience by using the Open Services Gateway initiative, an operating system- independent specification. The initiative provides best-practices information for application management, partitioning of application functionality as well as mobile device network accessibility. The WCTME also bundles tools for provisioning, application updates and application uninstallers.

Java is used to code most of the common development platform and the interfaces used to access applications. Solution providers selling this solution should be aware that customers must have experienced Java programmers and developers on staff, as well as developers skilled at coding for mobile devices. This is only a minor drawback to the software, however. WCTME is still a much more effective tool for integrating enterprise applications with mobile devices than Sybase's Pocket PowerBuilder. IBM's solution provides an all-encompassing enterprise application framework that can be extended to work with mobile devices instead of rearchitecting a new framework and struggling with application compatibility issues.

WCTME enables mobile users to tap both enterprise access services and interactive services. Access services provide application data, allow users to complete transactions and provide content by connecting to back-end enterprise applications and content servers. Since mobile devices have to deal with frequently dropped connections, data can be stored by an ISP or, in smaller quantities, on the mobile device itself. WCTME features a runtime environment that includes an IBM DB2 Everyplace local database that holds relational data in a device when connectivity is unavailable. Wireless and mobile clients can receive data by connecting to a carrier's UDDI server, which allows software to discover and integrate with Web services. This allows mobile users to receive data such as stock quotes, sports scores and more from the Web.

Interactive services let users interact with data through a user interface. Although most user interfaces are coded using Java, Device Developer also incorporates a voice API so mobile devices can be voice-activated and applications navigated using speech. IBM's open standard programming model enables these services to function across multiple devices and platforms.

Not all mobile device applications have a native user interface, but a generic browser can be used as an alternative. Once again, the use of Java allows both mobile and enterprise applications to use the same interface, reducing the amount of programming.
For all its functionality, WCTME only requires an average of 800 Kbytes to 900 Kbytes of space, making it ideal for smaller mobile devices such as cell phones. The services are available to users almost instantly after installation. The software's default configurations are not suitable for real-world use, however, as they do not take advantage of the solution's many customizable performance and memory management tools. One such tool is Micro Analyzer, which measures memory usage by tracking application- and system-class garbage collection on a device.

IBM is offering a free, three-day course on mobile device configuration, the IDE and the programming model. The course is available during July, August and September. In addition to free training, the company provides dedicated technical and marketing support, forums, education courses, kits and integration assistance to partners. Advanced technical resources are available on the company's Web site. WCTME's price per developer is $599 and its runtime environment costs $6 per device. IBM did not disclose average margin information.

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