What Developers Can Expect from OMA

What can wireless developers expect from the Open Mobile Alliance? IDN asks the author of "Learning Wireless Java".

Tags: OMA, Developers, Wireless, Standards, Web Services, Sun, Vendors,

In the last issue of IDN, we wrote on the formation of the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and its calendar for bringing more than 200 handset, networking and enterprise computing vendors together to agree on a series of wireless and web service-enabling standards. ( See IDN Story.)

In this issue, IDN speaks with Qusay H. Mahmoud, the long-time wireless Java developer and author of O'Reilly's "Learning Wireless Java" to help us handicap OMA's prospects and what developers should look for.

IDN: Vendors involved in OMA say it will bring many wireless standards groups together under one umbrella, and set the stage for better end-to-end standards between the wireless world and enterprise computing. Do you agree?

Mahmoud: The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) is certainly a significant step to consolidate the efforts of multiple standards into a single body that will remove the barriers to building applications and services that are globally interoperable. It promises that unified frameworks, to allow mobile applications to run on different wireless networks and handheld wireless devices, will be developed.

IDN: And what does OMA mean to the developer, especially in the short term?

Mahmoud: The OMA is about open standards, where all companies have an equal starting point, and competition is through innovation. Therefore, this alliance will benefit all kinds of companies including operators, wireless vendors, software vendors, and content & media companies. It will also simplify the life of application developers through common APIs that lead to minimizing the level of customization required for the interfaces.

IDN: What are the technologies where you think developers will see the most impact of OMA in the coming months?

Mahmoud: Some of the technology areas that will be targeted by OMA include synchronization and location-based services. These two are very important mechanisms of mobile applications. A common framework and APIs for such mechanisms would appeal to all wireless software developers.

IDN: Since Sun, IBM and Microsoft are all members of OMA, where should developers focus to see if the OMA will deliver "real world" benefits to developers (common APIs, better interfaces, standard frameworks, etc.)?

Mahmoud: The OMA is certainly a positive development for the industry, but what worries me is the number of companies involved in this alliance. Currently, the OMA has over 200 companies representing the world's leading
wireless vendors, operators, content providers, and software vendors. It is hard enough to get three parties to agree on one thing, so imagine 200 'competing' companies agreeing on a single solution -- or anything else for that matter.

However [some] companies are participating in the OMA just to slow down the development process of unified frameworks, and block the advancement of the OMA; simply to control the market. But I am still optimistic about this

IDN: Do you see any near-term tie-in, or overlap between OMA's wireless focus and the general focus on integrated or end-to-end "web services"?

Mahmoud: I don't see this as an overlap. I believe that mobile services will eventually access web services. An effort is already underway by the JCP [Java Community Process] to define Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) web services. The idea is to define an optional package that provides standard access from J2ME to web services.

Sun has submitted a proposal to the JCP to define a standard way for developers to extend Java-based web services applications to phones, PDAs, and other J2ME devices. Sun hopes the specification request, (#172), will be ready for approval by mid-2003. According to Sun vice president Rich Green, "This technology is designed to extend the Web services standards -- the SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and XML protocols -- to Java handsets" and other client devices."

[Ed NOTE: Sun, in joining the OMA board, said in part, that the decision came as a result of public pressures. "The demand from Sun's partners and customers has led Sun to join this alliance," said Simon Phipps, director, technology evangalism, Sun Microsystems. For more on this initiative, see JavaWorld magazine's report.]

IDN wants to hear from enterprise developers that have found their progress stalled by the lack of unified wireless standards. If you've got a project to boast about, or a story to tell, contact us at editor@idevnews.com.