Nokia stands up for WAP

LONG BEACH, Calif. – At times, Lee Wright’s keynote speech at BorCon sounded more like a motivational speech than a state of the wireless union address.

“Like it or not, everyone, and I mean everyone, in the industry is counting on you (developers),” said Nokia Inc.’s Americas head of strategic partnerships. “I can’t overemphasize your importance in what’s going on.”

Wright delivered this message to a room full of developers at Borland Software Corp.’s 12th annual user conference.

While his words to developers were encouraging, the outlook for wireless development was not as bright. Wright described the current state of wireless development as a mess, said it’s going to get worse before it gets better and this is inevitable.

Despite this, Wright said he has conversations every week with carriers, manufacturers and software companies and every time they discuss developers.

“It usually is kind of at the end of a long conversation about how we’ve spent billions, queued up factories, bought bandwidth, done the marketing campaign, and if we only had some great compelling applications,” he said.

Part of the reason is the need for Java applications. Wright said Nokia will introduce 50 million Java-enabled handsets in 2002 and 100 million more in 2003.

“This is going to emerge fast and it’s going to emerge into a huge built-in customer base,” said Blake Stone, principal architect for Borland’s JBuilder product line.

Nokia is also a strong believer in XHTML (Extensible HTML, a combination of HTML and XML), the Symbian operating system and “the whipping boy for failed applications,” WAP. According to Wright, WAP was the victim of marketing hype.

“Do I want to spend 17 minutes trying to find the movie time on my phone, or should I use the phone to place a voice call and listen to the recorded message?” asked Wright.

“WAP is more than mark-up language and it will continue to be used to develop and deploy applications.”

On the XHTML front, Wright said the industry is converging on it. The advantage is it provides an opportunity to create a more user-friendly interface through cascading style sheets, fonts, aligning, text and images.

“Nokia’s going to be providing an XHTML toolkit this fall. We’re also – and this is critical – deploying to carriers, to operators and licensing our microbrowser to others.”

Wright said he also sees great potential in short message service (SMS) and multimedia message service. In December alone there were 15 billion SMS messages sent in Europe and that number is expected to reach 25 to 40 billion per month in 2002, he said. The reason this service hasn’t taken off in North America, he said, is there are no inter-connection agreements between carriers.

“When the UK moved from a system that was similar to ours to one which there were inter-connection agreements growth skyrocketed. There’s a ‘here and now’ opportunity,” he said.

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