So what will WAP 2.0 be?
Hopefully a lot of i-Mode with a bit of old WAP
Okay, it looks like we're finally getting somewhere with WAP. Many people have baulked at the constant condemnation of WAP as a poor way of leading the world of wireless communications forward, but it seems as though that is the emerging consensus. The dream of a large group of companies to build a proprietary mobile standard is falling apart thanks to the fact that a) it's rubbish and b) that Japan's i-Mode has shown it up by being far more successful.
Not that i-Mode will ever be allowed into Europe in its pure format - there's too much time, effort and ego invested in the name WAP. And so, with astonishing predictability, it looks at though WAP version 2 will be a hybrid between the two approaches.
This positive movement is largely thanks (as often in the past) to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The Consortium's approach has in many ways helped shape the Internet industry's problem-solving efforts. Now it working with the WAP Forum to develop WAP 2.0 (the WAP Forum hasn't been known for being particularly helpful in the past).
This the current setup: i-Mode has been very successful in Japan (twice as many users as WAP users). There are a load of reasons for this. Firstly, with this modern mobile stuff, consumers have been sold the idea of the Internet on their phone. I-Mode uses a compact version of the Net's HTML language - something that, unsurprisingly, W3C is right behind - and as such fits the description of Net-on-phone fairly clearly. The fact that it is based on HTML makes the whole process a lot simpler and easier. It also helps that NTT DoCoMo is the only company working on it.
Too many cooks spoil the broth. And when you're talking about a different, incompatible protocol (WML in WAP phones), the effect is doubled. Only with the release of WAP 1.1 were people actually able to make sure their stuff worked with everyone else's. Before then, getting a phone working with a gateway was like a lottery. When it was noticed i-Mode wasn't having the same trouble, you had to ask why WAP was worth the bother.
And so the hand-wringing, partisan ranting and general waste of energy of recent months. The one good thing about this industry though is that everyone knows that if you argue for too long you will quickly be trampled by competitors. And so, waking up to the fact things can't go on as they are, the sides started talking.
Put simply: WAP has the brand, i-Mode has the approach.
Not that WAP is total crap - it deals with connection problems much better than i-Mode and doesn't need anything special on the handset - but the Japanese system is easier, more consumer-friendly, supports "always-on" connection, has colour, is better.
And so what is the extent of the merging here?
Well, this is where suddenly all the prefixed HTML's come out. You wanna stick with cHTML. No, you need XHTML. What about DHTML? Sod it, is what we say (and WMLScript is a dead dodo).
What about Java on the phone? That old gag again. All the Java freaks start crawling out the workwork: "It's got more capability/it's smaller/it's better/I love it". For what it's worth, we think Java is extremely useful but that hasn't helped it in the past has it?
The other question is do we have backwards compatibility with existing WAP. Personally, we would like the first stage of WAP pulled out and discarded in the dustbin of time. It will only have to be dumped later on. But it all depends on how much the current WAP boys want to keep face.
Security? Both are failing in some aspects and winning in others. Hopefully if you get everyone working on a good protocol, security issues will be ironed out.
So what will WAP 2.0 be? Hopefully an improved version of i-Mode (with the good bits of WAP pulled in), based largely on HTML. Maybe then people will start buying the bloody phones. ®
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