Wireless world: On the wireless front

Never before have the battle lines been so clearly drawn between competing vendors. Still, the vendors continue to treat the corporate public like idiots who will actually believe one side or the other is interested in real standards or the user’s welfare.

As applications and services are extended to mobile devices, the battle rages over whose mobile application development environment will be supported and used by the wireless carriers, ISVs (independent software vendors), and corporations. This battle is an engagement in the larger war over who owns the development rights for Web services, only now it is being fought over mobile Web services.

Whether or not you believe Web services are going to save the world is irrelevant, at least for the moment. What matters is that all the major ISVs and application server vendors believe it will. This pits Microsoft Corp.’s Visual Studio .Net against Sun Microsystems Inc.’s J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and the companies that support J2EE, including BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., and Oracle Corp., in a battle royale for the lion’s share of Web services development.

With its Brew development environment for mobile apps, Qualcomm is a significant other, so to speak. I will discuss Brew in a future column.

At stake is everything from the licensing fees paid to platform owners by the application development and ISV communities, to the multimillion dollars in sales of next-generation telecommunications equipment that will support one platform or the other, to the fees the carriers will charge to the ISVs for access to their wireless networks. Also at stake are the sales of handhelds and handsets to the enterprise.

And what does it mean to you? It’s an old story. If the standards issue is not resolved, IT managers will be forced to base purchasing decisions on the perilous choice of which platform and which device will best execute mission-critical applications. Then, if a best-of-breed application or device comes along, will your company be able to use it or did you select the wrong platform? And to make matters worse, when forced to make a decision, chief technology officers often discover that the best technical choice is not always what senior management wants.

As we went to press, Nokia, Ericsson, BEA, IBM, Sun, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T Wireless, and many more were in the J2EE camp, having joined the Open Mobile Architecture Initiative to give J2EE a mobile face. The plan is to develop mobile standards for both devices and the server, and to add the server standards to the J2EE specification.

On the other side is Microsoft.

Naturally, both sides denigrate the opposition. Unfortunately, for lack of space I must leave out some of the juicier name-calling. More important is the question, where does this leave the corporate customers who must ultimately foot the bill?

Ephraim Schwartz (ephraim_schwartz@infoworld.com) is an editor at large in InfoWorld (U.S.)’s news department.