IBM builds mobile Web Services toolkit

Erected on Open Source

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM has created a wireless web services toolkit that uses open source implementations of popular XML-based standards for devices with a small footprint.

The company's Web Services Tool Kit for Mobile Devices, posted to IBM's alphaWorks web site, uses kSOAP and kXML for Java web services and gSOAP for C-based web services.

These open source implementations of key web services standards omit certain functionality like array handling, to suit the needs of mobile devices that have limited memory and battery life.

Mobile devices are increasingly seen as vital to web services, because they potentially provide ubiquitous access to information and services. The challenge for developers, though, it is to get past familiar limitations thrown-up by devices' small form factors.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp is offering its own approach to this problem. The company is producing a cut-down version of its PC and server-centric .NET Framework for Windows-based handsets that is called the .NET Compact Framework.

Steve Holbrook, IBM program director of emerging e-business standards, said IBM's Web Services Toolkit for Mobile Devices has added appeal to developers, though, because its provides a single-point-of-contact to develop for multiple platforms, not just Windows. Unlike the desktop market, the market for mobile operating systems is diverse.

kSOAP and kXML can be used on Palm and BlackBerry as well as Microsoft's PocketPC-based systems, while the C web service runtime is supported on Palm.

"The biggest advantage is freedom of choice. The ISV doesn't have to constrain themselves to small market places," Holbrook said. He added, though, Java is the "sweet-spot" for mobile markets.

kSOAP is a subset of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) 1.2, and kXML provides an XML pull parser and writer suitable for all Java platforms including Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME).

The Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) for mobile devices support J2ME and IBM's WebSphere Studio Device Developer (WSDD) provides an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). WSDD also plugs into the Eclipse framework.

gSOAP, meanwhile, contains a set of C routines for handling SOAP messages and a stub compiler that maps native and user-defined C to semantically equivalent SOAP data types. Interoperability with SOAP is performed using an API. Application development for C-based web services on Palm is supported through Austin, Texas-based Metroworks Inc's CodeWarrior and the GNU PRC-Tools.

The Web Services Tool Kit for Mobile Devices is still at an early stage, and Holbrook said there are no immediate product plans.

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