Air2Web To Launch Wireless Hosting Service - InformationWeek

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Air2Web To Launch Wireless Hosting Service

Application service provider Air2Web Inc. is launching a wireless hosting service to let businesses give their customers wireless access to applications previously available only through Web browsers on desktop computers and notebooks.

United Parcel Service has been testing Air2Web Always Interactive for about a month and will use the Extensible Markup Language-based service to give its customers wireless access to its branded online services in the United States, beginning Sept. 18. UPS customers will be able to track packages, get shipping costs, and find drop-off stations via Wireless Application Protocol-enabled cellular phones, pagers, Palm VIIs, and other handheld devices. UPS began its wireless initiatives late last year when it offered its customers access to package-tracking applications and drop-off locations via the Palm VII.

Always Interactive will let developers build company-branded applications on an open platform without having to go through a telecommunications service provider. The applications can be built to suit a company's vertical industry. Analysts say most large companies aren't interested in accessing these types of services through telecommunications service providers, even though that's the way it's typically done in this emerging market.

"Enterprises want to deploy these types of services, but they want to be able to do it behind their own firewalls," says Cynthia Hswe, an analyst at the Strategis Group. Hswe says Air2Web's strategy is different from its competitors in that its XML-based platform does a lot more than the typical screen scraping. Screen scraping is the term Hswe uses to describe how other wireless service providers take HTML content and, in a quick-and-dirty fashion, transform it into WAP or HTML for a small form factor. Although this method may work well for content providers, it won't necessarily benefit companies delving into E-commerce, she says.

Says Hswe, "Air2Web's service allows users to create a database of content that can be constantly updated and changed without companies having to reformat their entire Web site. This appeals to E-commerce companies because they always have to update their inventory databases."

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