OMA Eyes Wireless Developers' Architecture By Year's End

A boon to developers may be in the offing as OMA "Super Alliance" seeks to unify more than 200 wireless and enterprise vendors in the coming months - including Nokia, Ericsson, IBM, Sun, Motorola and Microsoft.

Tags: OMA, Wireless, Standards, Enterprise, Architecture, Developers, Mobile,

The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) is poised to become a wireless-to-enterprise "Super Alliance," bringing together some 200 vendors from the enterprise and mobile industries, including Nokia, Ericsson, IBM, Sun, Motorola and now Microsoft.

As a result, developers and corporate IT managers could finally have a wide set of common standards and application frameworks that will tie wireless and enterprise technologies more closely together. Developers could see an OMA "first draft architecture" by the end of this year, one OMA exec told Integration Developer News late last week.

"Unified" Wireless Development
Such a draft development architecture would begin to bring together a variety of niche wireless and distributed enterprise standards -- including web services, said Douglas Heintzman, chairman of SyncML and member of OMA. Heintzman is also manager of IBM's strategy and standards group for pervasive computing. SyncML is a multi-vendor wireless initiative formed by IBM, Sun and BEA among others, to bring better wireless connectivity to Java clients.

"Under the OMA organization, we will be publishing an overall architecture document that explains how some of these wireless architectures should fit together," Heintzman said. While reluctant to give an exact date for such a document, he did tell IDN, "We [OMA] have hundreds of engineers at lots of big companies working on this. This is extremely important, so I think that you can reasonably assume you'll see some sort of first cut of an [overall] architecture by the end of the year."

Heitzman also said he expects OMA will be able to avoid much of the highly-publicized bickering that has faced other standards groups because IBM, Sun and Microsoft are all founding members. "I'm hopeful that the level of commitment from these big players will mean that we're all very much motivated to get down to business," Heitzman said.

"Many of the wireless forums these days are working on version 2.0 of their specifications," he said, noting that much progress in drafting individual standards will be leveraged in the new unified OMA group. "With the way wireless product cycles work, we have to start right now doing the real work of bringing all this [standards] work together into an overarching architecture that will rationalize the content [of wireless applications] for application developers."

Heintzman noted that SyncML's joining of OMA highlights the growing convergence between the cellphone and enterprise communities over common development frameworks, protocols and state management.

SyncML was formed, Heintzman said, because the enterprise computing members "needed a protocol stack that had awareness of synchronization and message checking and the whole ability to understand the granular nature of a transaction." In less than a year, SyncML had developed a version 1.0 proof of concept of that technology, which will also be folded into the OMA.

Reasons To Be Hopeful
There is good reason to be hopeful. The pieces are now in place for "wireless unity" like never before. Here's what's transpired in just the last 30 days:

  • On June 10, the WAP Forum (founded by Nokia and other cell phone makers) voted to be folded under the OMA, but to continue its work.
  • A number of mobile/wireless standards groups, aside from SyncML, each with their own focus, have agreed to come in under the OMA tent -- including Mixed Media Messaging Interoperability Group, and Wireless Village .

  • Just last week, Microsoft officials said they will join OMA. One key reason, according to Microsoft execs, is to help developers and end users better prepare for a time when the wireless world becomes a more seamless extension to the distributed computing enterprise.

    In a prepared statement, Mike Wehrs, director of technology and standards for Microsoft's mobility group, described why Microsoft perceives that now is the time to get more involved in such groups. In his statement, Wehrs said: "We believe that Microsoft's absence from some of [these groups in the past] has helped drive the perception that there is a wedge between the PC and Internet world, and the mobile industry. But that wedge can't exist because mobile data travels not just through the air, but also along the same routes as information sent over the landline Internet."

    "With OMA, we hope there will be a convergence of technologies from our work with other domains," Heitzman said, who expects OMA will unify specifications for graphical presentation, instant messaging, and provisioning.

    Bringing Wireless Together
    OMA's mission extends far beyond core interests of traditional cellphone and PDA makers, and takes a more end-to-end view of the marriage between wireless and enterprise computing.

    Among OMA's stated goals are:

    • Deliver open standards and specifications based upon market and customer requirements.
    • Establish centers of excellence for best practices and conduct interoperability testing (IOT), including multi-standard interoperability to ensure seamless user experience.
    • Create and promote a common industry view on an architectural framework.
    Many of the vendor members of OMA also hope the new "Super Alliance" will be the catalyst for the consolidation of standards for bringing together emerging wireless and enterprise standards to form a more accessible end-to-end framework for enterprise-to-wireless computing. Toward that goal, Heitzman said, the OMA will work in conjunction with other existing standards organizations and groups such as IETF, 3GPP, 3GPP2, W3C, and the JCP (Java Community Process).