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W3C Issues Mobile Device Spec

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today recommended a standard to help handheld computers and smartphones communicate with Web servers about displaying content.

The schema, the Composite Capability/Preference Profiles (CC/PP): Structure and Vocabularies 1.0 (CC/PP 1.0), is a system for expressing device features and user preferences using the Resource Description Framework (RDF), a spec that makes Web applications work with Web servers.

CC//PP is being shepherded by a W3C working group that includes Ericsson, Nokia and Sun Microsystems.

While many rich applications using XML or XHTML run on a host of devices from different vendors, they don't all provide access to Web content because there was, until now, no standard language to communicate that data, W3C spokeswoman Janet Daly said.

"There was no way for a server, unless you were using a desktop, to get content," Daly told internetnews.com. "Developers were trying to create specific content by hand for every device using XML and XHTML. It was possible for a Web content developer to create scripts using XSLT that can transform content into the forms needed, but how would you know what form you need?"

CC/PP is a whole framework for a device to identify itself to a server, and more importantly, to identify its capabilities and preferences, Daly said.

Daly said there needs to be a standard way for a handheld computer or smartphone to tell a Web server, "I am a cellphone. My display size will not allow me to see a framed site. Please deliver the content in detailed lists instead."

The complexity of Web-enabled devices is evolving, despite recent Gartner findings that the handheld computer shipments have dipped because of the weak economy. Gartner analyst Todd Kort said HP did well in 2003 because it refreshed its product line with five new models following the launch of Windows Mobile 2003.

Daly said users must be able to use their choice of devices to access Web content regardless of the hardware, software or infrastructure they are using. CC/PP enables this with the help of RDF, a Semantic Web language that uses existing profiles to help devices and applications work together regardless of whether they are old, current, or future versions.

"CC/PP provides a foundation for a device-independent Web, and actual device empowerment," said Rhys Lewis, chair of the W3C Device Independence Working Group. "As CC/PP uses RDF for the actual descriptions, we can foresee ease in sharing existing profiles, and more easily combining and creating new ones as new devices appear on the market."

CC/PP has been around for awhile and was used by the Open Mobile Alliance (formerly Wireless Application Protocol Forum) in some older mobile phones. Daly said there is now a Java API for CC//PP, developed by the Java Community Process, which should open the doors to broader development