The industry and media have probably misread the early market for mobile internet access and for application service providers (ASPs), says Citrix Asia-Pacific managing director Nabeel Youakim. But the potential for growth in both in the longer term is still there, he argues.
Citrix is certainly not investing in WAP, he says. “Other technologies like CDMA and GPRS will take over; WAP is already on the way down.” The length of messages prescribed by the protocol is too small, he says.
The business IT user has become used to a full-screen browser and will demand something approaching that level of ease, which is impossible on a mobile phone display today, he says. It is even difficult on the 5cm x 10cm foldout screen of the latest Nokia 9210, Youakim says.
Citrix, in collaboration with Nokia, has developed a “panning and scaling” capability, allowing the browser window to be scrolled within the 9210 display and zoomed back on demand to show the full layout of the screen. It is too small for most practical operations in this mode, but users need it psychologically for ease of navigation, Youakim suggests.
On the applications front, the browser with plug-ins and applets is a relatively heavy client-side application, and here the Citrix server-side model will potentially deliver a large advantage.
Citrix has developed a version of its ICA for the Epoc operating system, set to be a major mobile platform, and for Windows CE. Once Citrix can talk to the appropriate operating system, a substantial part of the job of handling different mobile devices and different communications protocols is done, Youakim argues.
In its vision of an ASP future, Citrix may have jumped the gun, he acknowledges. “There is a lot of future in ASP. The question is, when?
“It’s never got as big as we said it would — and when I say ‘we’ I include you, the media.” Youakim says prospects are asking ‘with all the funds I’ve sunk into in-house applications, where am I going to save by going the ASP way?”
It clearly makes less sense when the business has a range of existing and still usable applications, she says.
Youakim was in Wellington last week partly to speak at an “online government” conference. A number of vendor presentations and case studies were presented, with the usual four-figure price ticket.
The government’s e-government unit was a significant absentee from the event, with unit chief Brendan Boyle saying last Monday that no one from the conference organisers had approached them.