Building Microsoft ASP.NET Applications for Mobile Devices, Second Edition [Electronic resources] نسخه متنی

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Building Microsoft ASP.NET Applications for Mobile Devices, Second Edition [Electronic resources] - نسخه متنی

Andy Wigley; Peter Roxburgh

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A few weeks ago, I got my hands on my first Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone. It's a beautiful device and a great phone, but the first thing I noticed (and the first thing anyone else I show it to notices) is that it has a large, high-definition color screen. It's a far cry from the three-line black-and-white text screens that everyone was using when the first edition of this book came out.

I expect that everyone will have mobile devices with large, color screens before long. When you use the browser on these devices, you get a readable amount of information displayed, instead of having to scroll continuously through it. The color and high definition make it pleasurable to the eye. These kinds of browsers could not be used on mobile communications networks until recently because of the limited bandwidth, but over the last year, faster GPRS and CDMA2000 networks have been launched throughout the world. Faster networks and bigger color displays mean that you can create richer, more compelling Web content for mobile browsers, which results in a more usable, more satisfying user experience. The mobile Web is beginning to come of age.

I don't believe that the three-line monochrome browser is doomed, although I expect it will be seen less often on consumer communications devices. However, Internet connectivity is turning up in more and more unlikely places, so monochrome microbrowsers might still turn up in cars, on household appliances, and on portable electronic gadgets.

The pace of change in mobile device technology is as fast as any other computing sector, if not faster. It's nearly a year since the first version of what is now called ASP.NET Mobile Controls was launched (previously called the Microsoft Mobile Internet Toolkit). In that time, we've seen smart new devices such as the Microsoft Smartphone appear, and we've also seen a migration of lower-end devices from Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 1.1 to WAP 2.0, which introduces a brand new markup language, Extensible HyperText Markup Language-Mobile Profile (XHTML-MP). ASP.NET Mobile Controls have handled these developments comfortably. Microsoft has released configuration updates throughout the year, adding support for these new devices and markup language and demonstrating how extensible this technology really is. You can develop applications for these new devices using exactly the same techniques you used for WAP 1.1 devices. The powerful abstract model the developer works with hides the details of the underlying devices, allowing you to get on with creating great applications. If you wanted to sum up the capabilities of this technology, you'd say it is extensible, adaptable, and customizable.

Time for Enterprise Mobility Applications?

There's momentum building from different directions that makes me believe that we'll see a huge increase in the implementation of mobility solutions in the enterprise. The devices are getting cheaper, and they have better capabilities. The telecommunications networks are getting faster, and with the spread of Wi-Fi (802.11 wireless LAN) throughout the workplace and at hot spots in public places such as airports, railway stations, and coffee shops, enterprises can be confident that if they equip their personnel with capable devices such as a Pocket PC Phone Edition PDA with integrated Wi-Fi, they'll never be far from a wireless network connection with decent bandwidth. If you develop mobile Web applications, your users can access them from the browser in the device over Wi-Fi when they are in a location where that's available. When users can't connect to a wireless LAN, they can connect to a GPRS or CDMA2000 network operated by a phone network operator. (GPRS and CDMA2000 connections are sometimes known as WWAN—wireless wide area network—to distinguish them from WLAN, which is the proper term for Wi-Fi.)

So, good devices and good networks. However, the key ingredient from an enterprise point of view is good software. Microsoft continues to make huge investments in mobility technology. The Microsoft Windows CE operating system that drives Pocket PC and Windows Powered Smartphone devices continues to develop and gain new capabilities. The latest version is called Windows CE .NET and includes support for the .NET Compact Framework, which is a "light" version of the .NET Runtime for handheld devices. Using Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003, you can build .NET applications that run on handheld devices, but only those that support the runtime, which currently are Pocket PC and Windows CE .NET devices. To reach the majority of browser-equipped mobile devices, you need ASP.NET Mobile Controls. Again using Visual Studio .NET 2003, you can build applications that run not on the device, but on the Web server, and that send markup to the browser on the device. The difference is "rich" vs. "reach." The .NET Compact Framework is about rich client applications running on only some mobile devices; ASP.NET Mobile Controls are about mobile Web applications that work with the majority of mobile devices.

With Visual Studio .NET, developers use a single integrated development environment to build applications for each of these scenarios. Needless to say, building ASP.NET applications requires a different skill set than building Windows Forms applications that run on the device, but they're both built on top of the .NET Framework, so there's a lot of commonality that can make a developer's skills more transferable between these different disciplines.

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