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IBM submitted to the Organization for Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis) Web services standards body earlier this month a protocol called Web Service Remote Portal (WSRP) to allow wireless devices to access portlets.
A portlet is any application launched from a portal server, according to Rod Smith, vice-president of Internet Emerging Technologies at IBM.
"WSRP is a standard representation of how to do this presentation on any handheld device," said Smith.
When a device calls a portal server, WSRP will tell the server how much screen real estate is available, for example. The portlet aggregates information to build a page and generates it in XML. WSRP would sit on top of Soap and Web Services Description Language (WSDL) layers.
"The idea is to make a portlet 'Web service-ised', and in this way I can generate XML interfaces for voice or other interfaces," said Smith.
But while Smith admitted that WSRP and many of the other middleware protocols are still maturing, one ISV sees the lack of "mature" standards as a major worry for ISVs.
"This whole world of XML is rapidly becoming a morass of competing standards which everybody is afraid of," said Tony Meadows, president of Bear River Associates. Bear River develops applications for Palm and Pocket PC devices.
Meadows said he hopes that large enterprise companies will pressure vendors to agree on standards. With mobile devices becoming critical enterprise productivity tools, Meadows supported IBM's effort to create a standard around handheld presentation layers.
"The need for developers to support so many different devices with different screen sizes is daunting. Palm, Brew, PC 2002, are all different under the hood and each is evolving in different ways. Palm is going from 160 by 160 black and white display to 240 by 360 with lots of colour, and that alone is a big difference," he said.