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Mobile location-based Web services emerge

Who's in charge of mobile Web-services standards?

Wireless Alert By Joanie Wexler, Network World
March 29, 2004 11:44 AM ET
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Industry analysis by expert Joanie Wexler, plus links to the day's wireless news headlines

Canada's Bell Mobility is reportedly already offering real-time location-tracking services based on new server software Microsoft released last week at the CTIA Wireless 2004 show in Atlanta. Sprint is expected to offer location-based services in the U.S. using the same software platform this summer.

The specifics of the services have yet to emerge. But they leverage Microsoft's MapPoint Location Server (MLS), which integrates real-time location information generated by mobile networks with mapping capabilities from the Microsoft MapPoint Web service.

MLS provides an API that's independent of the mobile network infrastructure. So both enterprise and third-party developers can build applications that combine real-time location information with new or existing business software that should run across any underlying cellular network technology.

Microsoft's server software is said to open up the development platform for mobile networks. Indeed, Microsoft announced a partnership last fall with worldwide network operator Vodafone to "build standards" for mobile Web services.

However, there is already a 65-vendor consortium working in tandem with worldwide standards bodies to deliver similar APIs of its own. The group is called The Parlay Group, and it just hosted a full-day developer session at the 3GSM World Congress last month in Cannes, France.

Microsoft was originally a founding Parlay member, but doesn't appear to be involved in the effort anymore - though Parlay has a "Web services" working group. The Parlay Group's efforts are not limited to wireless networks; rather, they aim to build APIs for integrating data applications with all network service types.

Another group, the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), purports to do the same thing on the wireless front. Nearly two years ago, the OMA united a bunch of fragmented mobile standards initiatives into a single effort. But we haven't heard much from them lately.

Bottom line: Before you buy into a "standard API" that will work across all mobile networks do your homework. This might be one of those cases where multiple standards abound.

Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.

Joanie Wexler is an independent networking technology writer/editor in Silicon Valley.

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