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Introduction - Why WAP?

WML

XML

The Oracle XDK

An Example Application

Our first XSQL Page

Browser Sensitivity

A WML Stylesheet

WML Output

An HTML Stylesheet

Conclusion and Resources

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Developing Dynamic WAP-Enabled Websites Using Oracle's XML Tools

Introduction

In spite of the continuing debate about the technical merits and user demand for the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), there is general agreement that the number of users of mobile internet access devices world-wide is likely to exceed the number of users of desktop devices within the next few years.

This paper explains how to use Oracle's XML Developer's Kit (XDK) to develop dynamic data-driven web sites that can be accessed by users from a variety of different handheld devices. I will concentrate on the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) because it is the most unusual platform to implement. However, by using eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML) as the underlying data format and the eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) to describe presentation formatting we can simplify the implementation of any new device form˙˙ats that you need to support.

In the current development climate of multiple presentation environments and short project timescales, the power, flexibility and implementation speed available to the developer who uses Oracle's XML tools are incredibly useful in overcoming these challenges.

Why WAP?

There seems little argument about the increasing demand for mobile data access, but many commentators feel that WAP is likely to be superseded within a couple of years by information delivery protocols that will be a better match for the higher-bandwidth wireless devices and communication protocols of the future. At the other extreme, some commentators feel that older facilities such as Short Messaging Service (SMS) offer sufficient functionality for current user demands. So let me explain a few reasons why I feel that WAP services are worth implementing.

  • WAP is here now.
  • I own and use a WAP-enabled mobile telephone and so do my friends. Manufacturers (at least in the UK and other parts of Europe) are subsidising the cost of new WAP-enabled telephones to encourage consumer sales and WAP-enabling all of their most up-to-date handsets. Online banks are giving away WAP-enabled phones to encourage users to sign-up for their services. The result is that many users are acquiring WAP phones without making any decisions at all about which is the best protocol. Even if they decide to analyse the various future protocols and delivery options - what are they going to do for the next year or two whilst they wait for these to become available? They want a new phone now and, whilst they might only use WAP services occasionally, there will still be far more potential users of WAP phones than other wireless access protocols for the foreseeable future.

  • WAP has big vendor support.
  • Maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I pay attention when organisations such as Nokia, Motorola, AT&T, BT and Ericcson, commit themselves to the development of a protocol such as WAP. In my opinion, they understand consumer needs and current technical issues more clearly than the critics of WAP and have only been prepared to compromise on the functionality of the protocol itself in order to deliver something now.

  • WAP is just one delivery option.
  • This is the best bit. Even if I'm completely off the mark in my assessment of the current situation, the development approach described in this paper ensures that data presentation and delivery format are separated from the underlying data and application logic. That means if (when) another protocol becomes more effective and widely used, the extra implementation effort required would be limited. We can offer people information in the formats that they want; when they want it, rather than the formats that we deem technically sound; when they become available.

    There are many more opinions about the pros and cons of WAP at the various WAP development sites listed in the Resources section at the end of the paper, but for the rest of the paper, I'll concentrate on one approach to the development work itself.

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