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OMTP says mobile Web 2.0 is a beach

Now to get everyone to agree what that means

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Operator talking shop the Open Mobile Terminal Alliance has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring Web 2.0 to mobile phones, called Bondi to reflect the joy of surfing.

There is general agreement that AJAX-style applications would be a good thing on a mobile phone, both in terms of applications embedded in web pages and widgets embedded in the phone interface, but deciding what such applications should be allowed to do is more difficult.

Apple's iPhone ran into this problem when Steve announced that there would be no native applications, since AJAX could do anything an application could want. The problem is that mobile phone applications want to make phone calls, send text messages, check location information and integrate with other applications. But all of these things are prevented by the sandbox that protects users from malicious content.

So the iPhone will get native applications in addition to AJAX ones, but the OMTP reckons there can be a middle ground. Standard APIs will allow scripts access to phone functions, but not all scripts will be made equal.

Identifying which script should be allowed and which kept from accessing the phone is the tricky bit. Digitally signing scripts is possible, but requires secure certificate distribution and management - a process at which the mobile industry has proved remarkably inept.

Yesterday saw the first meeting of the Bondi working group, who will be deciding how much freedom is too much for untrusted applications, and how to identify those applications that deserve a little more trust. Apparently digital signitures will be on the agenda, but accompanied by the domain listing approach, where access to the APIs is restricted to scripts loaded from known sites.

Domain listing will appeal to the operators who make up the OMTP membership: though much less secure than digital signatures it's very simple to implement and gives complete control to the network operator.

The working group won't be publishing the first version of Bondi until the Autumn, although more details should emerge in the next month or two, and in proper OMTP style it already has a logo. ®

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