News From Telecom World

Free mobile Web is an open mobile Web

Posted on: October 22, 2008

Industry-wide move to an open source model is proof that the openness of the traditional Internet is slowly coming to the mobile Web.

The Internet grew in size and popularity largely because of its openness.

From the early days of the Web, pretty much anybody could develop an application or Website and – language issues aside – feel confident that it would be accessible to almost any PC user.

This isn’t the case with the mobile Internet where the variety of operating systems, devices and networks has stalled the development, and ultimately consumer uptake, of mobile content.

To illustrate this problem, developers for the mobile Web have had to build and test an application separately on most of the devices that any mobile operator supports, globally. And they have had to change it or extend it every time a new phone is released, and must plan for upcoming new handsets.

While faster mobile networks, rich browsers and great devices are now an established feature of mobile Internet services, it is this diversity that has created the very real need for the many mobile content delivery and transcoding services that operators use today. Indeed, it is this technology that has enabled the market to increasingly move to a “write once, view anywhere” content strategy that reduces the complexity of managing mobile content.

If content adaptation is vital to the short term success of the mobile Web, then a roadblock along the way could have been the entrenched proprietary software licensing model that has withheld technology from the very people who should be building the new mobile Web. In the traditional Internet world, browsers are relatively standardised and the tools to create databases and complex systems, such as Linux and SQL, are widely and freely available as Open Source Software (OSS) through General Public Licences (GPL). This environment has made it easy to develop for the Web and has enabled the community to focus on what they do best – create fresh and compelling content, rather than worry about how to deliver it.

This has never been the case in the mobile Internet world.

But in the traditional Internet environment this access has been provided through OSS models, so couldn’t the same principle be applied to mobile?

OSS has the ability to provide an underlying platform for the management and delivery of mobile content and applications, and offer a common and scalable basis upon which individual content owners can develop differentiated and compelling products.

Recent developments have changed the dynamics of mobile content delivery market for the better.

New template-based content development tools have extended the reach of mobile content to not only operators, brands and developers but small businesses and consumers too. The long tail of content that is so synonymous with the fixed Web could finally come to the mobile Web.

Both the developer and operator communities are supportive of the move to open source too. It will encourage developers to start extending the capabilities of the software currently out there and make available some new and compelling mobile content. Moreover, OSS mobility software, with licensing terms favourable to the enterprise audience, will open up mobile Internet development to a vast array of new companies. It is that content – the long tail – that will enable the mobile Web to start to fulfil its potential.

This is just one reason why operators too have expressed support for the community standards process, which has been driven by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), to create the Device Independent Authoring Language (DIAL) specification.

This industry-wide move to an open source model – think about the development of handsets based on the LiMo platform and Google’s Android – is proof that the openness of the traditional Internet is slowly coming to the mobile Web too. Indeed, the mobile Web is rapidly becoming the platform upon which mobile data revenues will be generated, with open source helping to overcome the limitations imposed on content creation by licence fees.

OSS will redefine the extent to which content publishers will be able to capitalise on the mobile Web’s opportunity and enable the emergence of the long tail of content.

Mark Watson is CEO and co-founder of Volantis Systems which helps organisations solve the complexity of delivering digital content to thousands of unique devices.

Source: Total Telecom

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