RIM: Web Services Will Trump Mobile Browsers

News Analysis: Wireless e-mail leader RIM contends that Web services hold the key to building handheld device applications that better serve enterprise needs, and some experts agree.

When David Heit joined Research In Motion in 2000, the companys wireless e-mail system was only just becoming a favorite in executive circles and he was tasked with looking for the firms next big thing.

Six years later, RIMs BlackBerry handheld devices and e-mail software are the de facto standard for enterprise mobile communications applications, and are now fighting off a potential system shutdown at the hands of its patent suit with NTP. But Heit believes that next big thing has arrived.

The future of delivering mobile applications to handheld devices, he said, lies in the development of new Web services-based technologies.

While mobile browsers, including RIMs own software, currently support a wide range of business tools, he said, and client-server oriented wireless applications built on technologies like J2ME (Java 2 Platform Micro Edition) have won homes in many businesses, Heit contends that the adoption of Web services platforms for building new applications is where the biggest opportunities may lie.

Like Heit, some experts believe that Web-services based tools, software built using standards-based languages such as XML, will allow organizations to piece together news programs derived from their existing applications.

Heit, a senior product manager at RIM, said that despite the belief that mobile browsers will eventually serve the same role they do today on the desktop (acting as a gateway to many business applications) he believes that looking at the issue from that perspective may be all wrong.

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By offering some of the advantages of browser-based technologies and mobile client server applications, as well as an increased level of design flexibility, Heit said that Web services-oriented tools will someday better meet the needs of enterprise customers.

"The assumption is that the mobile browser experience should be the same as the desktop experience, but we believe that the usage patterns are different than when youre sitting at your desktop, versus when youre working with a mobile device," Heit said.

"The mobile experience is much more about immediacy and having information available when you need it," he added.

"Web services represent a third development model beyond browsers and something like Java, and they will greatly increase our ability to extend applications onto the handheld."

Rather than trying to build something that recreates the desktop experience of viewing a Web page or online business portal, Heit contends that businesses will embrace Web services-based applications that farm specific data they need directly to handhelds.

Java-based client server applications work well in this regard today, but the cost of developing such tools will become prohibitive as mobile tools proliferate, he said.

At the heart of RIMs Web services effort is its BlackBerry MDS Studio, a visual application design and assembly tool that promises to help developers more quickly piece together mobile applications using a drag-and-drop approach.

By giving companies the ability to create rich Web services-based applications using a simple interface, Heit said, RIM will also offer the ability for firms to save money they might have spent hiring Java developers.

Next Page: MDS Studio may be the answer.