Three heavyweight mobile handset manufacturers are working together to define a standard for writing Web pages that can be read using traditional cellular phone screens.
The developers - Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia - have set up a separate company called the Wireless Application Protocol Forum, with mobile software and services organisation, Unwired Planet. They will work to establish an HTML-like language, called Wireless Mark-up Language, which can create mobile handset-friendly pages.
The phone manufacturers expect to market handsets supporting Unwired Planet?s Web browsers in the third quarter of this year, while the first draft specification of the standard will be available at the end of this month. It is expected that mobile phone operators will begin pushing Web content over their networks by the end of the year.
The ability to offer Web facilities using traditional mobile phones has been a major aim of cellular operators but has so far eluded them because of technological difficulties. Many have used Short Messaging Service (SMS) technology to download Web information into phones but this does not allow for interaction. Cellnet, which launched its Genie service in September, uses SMS to present Web information to phones.
According to Malcolm Bird, managing director of Unwired Planet Europe, the appearance of a special Web development language for mobile phones will make it attractive for companies with Internet sites to target new markets.
?The Internet has spawned a huge industry but some of the standards do not map easily onto the mobile industry. With transactions over the Internet, there are a lot of handshaking and this takes time, which in the mobile world would take up a lot of air link. With small tweaks we can optimise the Internet for air links,? said Bird.
The WML standard will be offered to Web authoring software developers to sell as part of their products. Companies wanting to publish pages on mobile phone screens will need to write using the WML standard while using HTML to develop traditional pages.
The standard could be based on Unwired Planet?s existing language called Handheld Device Markup Language (HDML), with additions such as scripting capabilities.
AT&T?s mobile division is already using Unwired Planet?s technology to push Internet information such as newswires, stock quotes, and flight details to their customers.
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