Hosted Wireless Goes Behind Firewall

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2001-07-23

Acknowledging that not everyone is comfortable with hosted services, wireless application service provider Air2Web Inc. this week will announce a new version of its Mobile Internet Platform with the added option of installing the software behind the firewall at enterprise sites.

The option, key to Air2Web Version 3.0, is the result of customer demand for better security and added control, the Atlanta-based company said.

"People dont just want to throw their code over the wall," said Fran Rabuck, practice leader for mobile technology at Alliance Consulting, in Philadelphia, and an eWeek Corporate Partner. "I think they have to do this."

Security is a primary concern among users, according to Jeff Browning, vice president of platform development at Air2Web. "Everything from the WAP gap [a well-publicized hole in the Wireless Application Protocol] to just wanting to process their data locally and sanitize it before they send it out, they want to have control over it," Browning said.

In addition to the security enhancements, Version 3.0 includes support for more types of devices than did previous versions.

Air2Web now supports devices running Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC platform and includes additional support for Palm Inc.s Palm OS. The Air2Web platform can now dynamically generate PQAs (Palm query applications).

"The developer can create a PQA on the fly, and then the device can just download it," Browning said.

The platform also now supports vCards, consolidated contact information that users can store and then retrieve to automatically dial phone numbers. Nokia Corp. supports vCards on several of its phones.

Also for phones, the Air2Web platform now supports two-way Short Message Service, meaning users can send a request from an SMS phone rather than just receive pushed data. This will enable customers and employees to request information such as a bank balance or confirmation of a package delivery.

Pricing depends on the number of users. A hosted license starts at $54,000, and the nonhosted version starts at $120,000.

Functionally, the hosted and nonhosted versions of the software are the same.

"We typically would assist in sort of a sizing exercise depending on the number of employees, but once we went through that process, the actual deployment would be the same," Browning said.

Future versions of the software will include a framework that will make it easier for corporations hosting their own services to design their own wireless business applications as well, he said.

On the hosted services side, Air2Web this week will announce a deal with The Weather Channel to deliver severe-weather alerts to mobile devices.

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