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ZDNet Roundup: A Week in the life of WAP

It's been a busy week for the little wireless protocol known as WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)
Written by Justin Pearse, Contributor
Content is most definitely king in the wireless world and announcements from a couple of the Web's major players this week boosted confidence in the future of the fledgling WAP standard. Monday saw Net giant AOL firmly staking its future on the mobile Internet explosion. It signed deals with Ericsson, Nokia and RTS Wireless to develop interactive content and services based on AOL's WAP portals. 'AOL Anywhere', is good news for the future of WAP, as analysts believe that content rather than technology will drive mainstream adoption. The company also announced it would play an active role in the WAP Forum. With the arrival of 3G, the applications we can expect to see on our mobile phones will go way beyond the text based services offered by WAP. Flash memory will be in huge demand: a fact not lost on Ericsson, which secured flash supplies for the next three years in a deal with Intel Friday. The popularity of both PC and phone banking mean that WAP banking services are sure to be a hit with consumers. Woolwich, Thursday became the first UK bank to go live with such a service. 100 lucky customers were issued with a year's free line rental from Vodafone on a Nokia 7110 handset. The full service rolls out in April. Mobile commerce, or m-commerce as it is becoming known, is tipped by analysts to explode in the next two years. The race is now on to come up with a standard secure payment system to allow us to happily shop from our mobile phones. On Thursday, Trintech and Motorola came up with a virtual credit card solution, akin to the electronic wallets common in today's e-commerce. Replacing cumbersome smartcard technology, analysts believe this could be the way forward. Hoping to hasten WAP's takeoff, four of the world's largest smart card makers formed the SIMalliance at the GSM Congress Wednesday. Using established SIM technology it will push limited WAP browsing over GSM handsets -- potentially offering mobile Internet browsing to the 24 million mobile users in the UK alone. Thinking of getting yourself a WAP handset? Before you splash out the £150 or so take a moment to consider the arrival of GPRS this summer. It means handsets will be able to handle full HTML content, giving a far richer browsing experience than the stripped down, text only version of the Net WAP provides. The GSM Congress in Cannes last week saw the launch of the world's first dual browser handset. The Benefon Q, due in Europe this summer, features both a WAP and an HTML browser. Virgin Mobile Tuesday became the first UK mobile operator to announce that all its subscribers could browse WAP content from its standard GSM handsets. The company, in partnership with smart card manufacturer Gemplus, will launch its SIM-based browsing service for its subscribers this spring. Where corporates lead, consumers tend to follow. Friday saw WAP moving closer to the heart of the enterprise with the announcement from Scala that it will offer real-time access to back-office data from WAP handsets. It is currently beta testing these WAP services. The GSM World Congress in Cannes last week saw a lot of talk from hardware manufacturers about the possibilities of WAP, but little focus on the content side of the equation. And lets face it, the protocol has little chance of entering consumers' hearts without a mass of compelling content to make access worthwhile. However the major players are starting to enter the arena and Friday saw Excite jump on the bandwagon, announcing its WAP portal, to provide personalised content to users. Although cheering the arrival of WAP technology, industry insiders Friday complained that the complexity of the standard may slow its adoption. There was concern that WAP was 'over specified' and that the current specifications were too complicated for simple access devices such as the Nokia 7110. However most agreed that such problems would be addressed in future expansions of the spec. A Week in the life of WAP
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