Toolmakers await “wireless revolution”
Once corporate developers start building mobile apps in force -- when that will happen is anyone’s guess, experts say -- testing must become a key part of the process. Industry observers contend that testing is far more important, at least for early mobile applications, due to myriad, widely used platforms and operating systems.
Clearly, corporate use of mobile devices has not progressed anywhere near the heights predicted during the Internet boom by some overly exuberant high-tech vendors, analysts and consultants. Experts blame the slow move by corporate IT operations to create wireless apps on a variety of reasons, including the industry’s inability to agree on wireless standards, the lack of a so-called “killer app” and an economy that is discouraging risk-taking.
The wireless revolution long ago found success in the technical embedded systems business, where testing tools have played an important role in many projects, said Adam Kolawa, co-founder and chief executive at Monrovia, Calif.-based Parasoft, a maker of testing tools for embedded applications that have been extended to support testing of non-embedded wireless apps built for Windows CE platforms. Load testing “is not popular” today on Microsoft’s wireless operating system, but Kolawa predicts “it will have to be done over the long term.”
Due mostly to the high expectations for corporate wireless development, most makers of testing tools have brought out new or upgraded offerings that can specifically address mobile application requirements. Experts do agree that the potential is significant, because wireless development can be far more complex than traditional software engineering.
“Testing is more important in mobile projects” than in traditional client/server or host-based development efforts, said Steve Garland, chief executive at Asta Systems Inc., San Mateo, Calif. “In traditional development you work in Windows, always Windows. Mobile is completely different -- it’s not even close. The emulators are rotten, and they either don’t work or they’re just for Windows. Mobile apps have to be tested on real devices and on real networks. I haven’t seen a tool that can simulate that.”
Garland notes that Asta engineers have experience in building both tools and apps for wireless systems. Early in this decade, Asta started selling toolsets for building wireless apps, but quickly shifted gears when officials realized that “the wireless revolution hadn’t arrived,” he said. The company now offers security and business collaboration apps in addition to the development tools, which so far have been utilized in mostly “cancelled projects.”
Insiders say corporate demand for wireless tools peaked about two years ago and has declined steadily since. “Two years ago, we saw a lot of demand for wireless testing using WAP [the Wireless Application Protocol specification that promises interaction between multiple wireless platforms],” said Deborah Kablotsky, director of product management at RadView Software Inc., Burlington, Mass. Lately, RadView customers are shifting interest to the short message service (SMS), but, said Kablotsky, there is still a lack of demand for wireless-enabled testing tools.
RadView Marketing Vice President Laura Naylor added that the firm will continue to move to support testing of wireless applications for the inevitable upswing in development.
Wireless automated testing tools from Empirix Inc. are currently used mostly for packaged applications that have been extended to add support for wireless devices, said Dan Koloski, director of the testing products group at the Waltham, Mass.-based toolmaker. “Some new development is being done, but most of the wireless work today is related to packaged applications” like those from Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft or SAP, he said.
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Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.