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MOBILE ECOSYSTEMS IN A NUTSHELL

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MOBILE ECOSYSTEMS IN A NUTSHELL
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    MOBILE ECOSYSTEMS IN A NUTSHELL Antoniu Ş TEFAN, Ioana Andreea ST Ă  NESCU  Advanced Technology Systems, 222 Calea Domneasc ă  , Târgovi  ş te, Romaniaantoniu.stefan@ats.com.ro, ioana.stanescu@ats.com.ro Andriani PIKI School of Management, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK a.piki@rhul.ac.uk  Gladiola CHETE  Politehnica University of Timisoara, Faculty of Engineering Hunedoara, 5 Revolutiei Street, Hunedoara, Romania, gladiola.chete@sagia.ro  Abstract : The mobile technologies of today have advanced in terms of functionalities, components,architectures, quality and perspectives. The authors present references on the current state of development of mobile ecosystems and on their future potential within the convergent space of learning,business and social life. The paper focuses on practical-based learning experiences explored in thedevelopment context of a clinical decision support system.  Keywords: mobile learning, mobile OS, JEE, JSF, CDSS  I.   INTRODUCTION “  Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic ” (Sir Arthur C.Clarke). Under this statement, mobile is a qualifiable new medium. The evolution of the educationalenvironment has recorded great change of perspectives along the last decades, upon the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT). Learning, as the engine of development andinnovation, opened towards implementation of new methods and practices under the premises of obtaining sustainable performance. In the context of lifelong learning, the mobile milieu emerges as amandatory approach of the future. In relation to information technology, the vast majority of teachersand trainers play the role of content developers. They are users and not technology developers, andthis creates a gap that restricts the use of the full potential of ICT. Efforts are made to fill in thisincreasing need of IT competency in the teachers’ communities [1, 2], in order to allow them improvetheir overall performance and thus support better outcomes from their students.This paper focuses on the potential of the mobile environment within educational settings.Best practices from the desktop environment simply do not apply. The unique attributes of the mobiledevices, ecosystem and user require new best practices for Mobile Web development. The challengeof mobile developers is to build adaptive, responsive, and standards-compliant Mobile Web sitesguaranteed to work on any mobile browser.The authors synthesize in a nutshell the role of the most relevant layers of a mobile ecosystemwith the purpose of defining a working framework for future development of the educational actorsand applications.The approach is practice-base and incorporates the example of a clinical decision supportsystem developed as a reflection of the multi-dimensions and interconnections that characterizes our learning, business and social life, taking benefits of knowledge sharing across communities.  1.1 In the beginning...  Every story has a beginning and mobile development is no different. The mobile environmenthas come to have a history. The evolution of mobile networks, the devices that run on them, and theservices people use every day have evolved at an amazing rate, from the early phones to the fashionstatement of today. Although the modern mobile phone has significantly changed over the lastdecades, it represents a communication and information device that is nearly always connected to theInternet, even if it doesn’t display a web browser. It allows people to send and receive voice and textmessages, to purchase goods and services or provide localization services within the fraction of aninstant. In fact, the modern mobile phone is capable of covering most of the functionalities provided by the desktop computers, but with the potential for more meaningful relevance to our daily activities.In addition to that “  globally, there are approximately 3.5 times as many mobile devices in use as thereare PCs ” [3] which presents numerous opportunities for utilising mobile devices.Thinking of mobile devices more as personal computers and less as telephones is a difficultshift in perception. The mobile industry of today has somewhat of a split personality, consisting of the“regular” or desktop environment and the mobile one. Even the Web is divided based on thisreasoning. The desktop web is made up of the sites and web applications designed for a browser running on desktop or laptop computers. In other words, the desktop context involves information thatwe access typically while stationary and sitting at our desk. The mobile web contains the sites and webapplications designed for mobile devices, or the mobile context, which we can access anywhere at anytime. Technically speaking, it is all one Web, at least in terms of the technology that we use to publishinformation and knowledge. But these two mediums are very different and offer different value to theend user, based on their context.The trend is to oversimplify the technology powering the Internet. The Internet is actually acomplex ecosystem made up of multiple components that must all work together seamlessly [4,5].When people enter a URL into a web browser, they do not think about everything that has to happen tosee a web page. When they send an email, they do not care about all the servers, switches, andsoftware that separate them from their recipient. Everything people do on the Internet happens infractions of a second. And they have the perception that all of this happens for free.People unfamiliar with mobile quickly assume that the mobile ecosystem is exactly like theInternet, and that all the same rules apply. Mobile is indeed an entirely unique ecosystem and, like theInternet, it is made up of many different parts that must all work seamlessly together. However, withmobile technology, the parts are different, and because people can use mobile devices to access theInternet, that means that not only do they need to understand the facets of the Internet, but they alsoneed to understand the mobile ecosystem. Accessibility is definitely one issue which requires specialattention especially when addressing the use of mobile devices in learning and education. Designingmobile learning spaces can help to empower learners’ autonomy and provide teachers with additionalways to engage learners [6]. 1.2 Mobile Web vs. Desktop Web Fundamentally, there is one Web. Its content is standardized markup, styles, scripts andmultimedia viewable using web browsers. The Mobile Web operates under the umbrella of the WorldWide Web. It uses the plumbing of the desktop Web and adds new MIME types, markup languages,document formats, recommendations and best practices [7, 8] to provide web content optimised for thesmall screens, resource constrains, and usability challenges of web browsers on mobile devices.The Mobile Web introduces new components into the web ecosystem, based on its particularities, including:-    Markup languages and styles optimised for mobile devices -    MIME types that differentiate mobile markup from desktop HTML -    Browser clients with a wide variety of capabilities -    Network proxies that further adapt content to cater for these clients.  The Desktop Web, with a nearly 20 year’s background, is a safe and well-understooddevelopment environment driven by client technologies steeped in established standards. Desktop browser clients are public, free, freely available, and frequently updated. Only a handful of softwarevendors and open-source projects produce the dominant web browsers in use today, reducing the  testing burden for cross-platform web development. In the desktop ecosystem, if a web page reachesthe destination browser, its markup is almost always left unaltered en route by intermediary servers onthe Internet. Network owners and Internet Service Provider (ISPs) are not interested in optimizing andimproving the web experience through automated markup adaptation and content repackaging. Themobile experience is significantly different.Mobile Web development qualifies as a new discipline based on the following considerations:-   The Mobile Web ecosystem is totally new. The Mobile Web uses the structure of the DesktopWeb, but it has new best practices derived from the unique attributes of mobile devices.Desktop metaphors do not apply. Bandwidth consumption is a concern, even for smartphones.Rich Web 2.0 features such as JavaScript frameworks and Asynchronous JavaScript and XML(AJAX) must be used judiciously, or the user risks draining battery power. Operatorsfrequently control and block traffic to Mobile Web sites. Transcoding proxies often attempt toreformat mobile markup en route to a mobile browser. Finally, defensive programming isessential to reduce exposure to transcoders and mobile network problems.-   The Mobile Web user is totally new. Mobile Web users have unique usage patterns andnavigation methods. Mobile users are keenly goal-directed and location-aware. Roaming inand out of coverage areas, mobile users count network access problems among the top factorsaffecting the Mobile Web browsing experience. In fact, cost-sensitive mobile users prefer tocancel the network transaction rather than risk a chargeable mistake.-   The Mobile Web browser is totally new. It has unique benefits, quirks and workarounds.Partial and flawed implementations of web standards are commonplace. Improperly formattedweb pages can have drastic effects on mobile devices, including crashing the browser or resetting the device. Advanced web features such as JavaScript and AJAX are highlydesirable, but drain battery life. With more than a dozen mobile browser vendors in the market place, the burden of ensuring compliance with web standards falls to OEMs and operators.In order to take advantage of the opportunities in mobile content, developers and designersneed to be aware of the ways in which mobile content practices differ dramatically from those of thedesktop Internet world [9]. II.   THE MOBILE ECOSYSTEM Sustaining a great mobile usability and performance comes down to being prepared, knowingthe ecosystem and its users, the components that provide advantages and the risks to be avoided. 2.1   Understanding the mobile environment  The main layers of the mobile ecosystem can be synthesized as:  services, application,application framework, operating systems, platforms, devices, aggregators, networks and operators [10]. These layers are reliant on the each other to create seamless, end-to-end experience. Althoughnot every piece of the puzzle is included in every mobile product and service, for the majority of thetime, they seem to add complexity to the work involved. What make the mobile environment such acomplicated space to design and develop for are these layers, which the user must wade through inorder to accomplish simple tasks like sending a text message or access a search engine. Smartphone Smartphones are mobile phone that fits the users’ pockets and lets them communicate fromand to anywhere in the world and they are an amazing invention. Mobile device application developerswork in a challenging world where devices come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and withdifferent capabilities [11]. As the functions of mobile devices have increased to comprise desktopcomputer features captures in Lilliputian worlds, smartphones have become more powerful and popular, and the demand for smartphone software has grown [12]. Services Services include tasks such as accessing the Internet, sending a text message, or being able toget a location, basically anything the user is trying to do. Under these premises, the developers have to perform in a context with quite limited resources, such as CPU capabilities, battery power, input  methods, available memory amount and so on [13]. Software developers targeting such a challengingenvironment need to focus on code efficiency and robustness more than they may be used to for mobile desktop platforms. They are working in an environment where any heap memory allocationcan fail and where the cost of forcing the CPU to switch between processes or even between threads isnon-eligible.  Platforms A mobile platform’s primary duty is to provide access to the devices. There are threecategories of software platforms: licensed, proprietary, and open source.a. LicensedLicensed platforms are sold to device makers for nonexclusive distribution on devices. Thegoal is to create a common platform of development Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) thatwork similarly across multiple devices with the least possible effort required to adapt for devicedifferences, although this is hardly reality. Current licensed platforms are:-   Java Micro Edition (Java ME)-   Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW)-   Windows Mobile-   LiMo b. ProprietaryProprietary platforms are designed and developed by device makers for use on their devices.They are not available for use by competing device makers, such as:-   Palm-   Blackberry-   iPhonec. Open Source.Open development practices have had a major impact on the software industry. Open softwaredevelopment processes involve new managerial styles, governance and social models, working practices and communication techniques [14] Open source platforms are mobile platforms that arefreely available for users to download, alter, and edit.Open source mobile platforms are newer and slightly controversial, but they are increasinglygaining traction with device makers and developers. Android is one of these platforms. It wasdeveloped by the Open Handset Alliance, a group of 65 technology and mobile companies that supportthe acceleration of innovation in mobile environment and that, according to http://www.openhandsetalliance.com , aim to “ offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience ” [10]. The Alliance seeks to develop an open source mobile platform based on theJava programming language. 2.2   Application Framework Application frameworks often run on top of operating systems, sharing core services such ascommunications, messaging, graphics, location, security, authentication, and many others.  Java  Applications written in the Java ME framework can often be deployed across the majority of Java-based devices, but given the diversity of device screen size and processor power, cross-devicedeployment can be a challenge. Most Java applications are purchased and distributed through theoperator, but they can also be downloaded and installed via cable or over the air. S60 The S60 platform, formerly known as Series 60, is the application platform for devices thatrun the Symbian OS. S60 is often associated with Nokia devices, as Nokia owns, but it also runs onseveral non-Nokia devices. S60 is an open source framework. S60 applications can be created in Java,the Symbian C++ framework, or even Flash Lite.  BREW  Applications written in the BREW application framework can be deployed across the majorityof BREW-based devices, with slightly less cross-device adaption than other frameworks. However BREW applications must go through a costly and timely certification process and can be distributedonly through an operator.  Flash Lite  Adobe Flash Lite is an application framework that uses the Flash Lite and ActionScriptframeworks to create vector-based applications. Flash Lite applications can be run within the FlashLite Player, which is available in a handful of devices around the world. Flash Lite is a promising and powerful platform, but there has been some difficulty getting it on devices. Windows Mobile Applications written using the Win32 API can be deployed across the majority of WindowsMobile-based devices. Like Java, Windows Mobile applications can be downloaded and installed over the air or loaded via a cable-connected computer.  Android SDK  The Android SDK allows developers to create native applications for any device that runs theAndroid platform. By using the Android SDK, developers can write applications in C/C++ or use aJava virtual machine included in the OS that allows the creation of applications with Java, which ismore common in the mobile ecosystem. Web Runtimes (WRTs)  Nokia, Opera, and Yahoo! provide various Web Runtimes, or WRTs. These are meant to beminiframeworks, based on web standards, to create mobile widgets. Both Opera’s and Nokia’s WRTsmeet the W3C-recommended specifications for mobile widgets. Although WRTs are very interestingand provide access to some device functions using mobile web principles, they can prove morecomplex than just creating a simple mobile web app, as they force the developer to code within anSDK rather than just code a simple web app. WebKit  With Palm’s introduction of webOS, a mobile platform based on WebKit, and given its predominance as a mobile browser included in mobile platforms like the iPhone, Android, and S60,and that the vast majority of mobile web apps are written specifically for WebKit, it can be refered asa mobile framework in its own right. WebKit is a browser technology, so applications can be createdsimply by using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. WebKit also supports anumber of recommended standards not yet implemented in many desktop browsers. The Web The Web is the only application framework that works across virtually all devices and all platforms. Although innovation and usage of the Web as an application framework in mobile has beenlacking for many years, increased demand to offer products and services outside of operator control,together with a desire to support more devices in shorter development cycles, has made the Web oneof the most rapidly growing mobile application platforms to date. 2.3   Mobile Operating Systems While mainframe operating systems are designed primarily to optimize utilization of hardware, personal computer (PC) operating systems support complex games, business applications,and everything in between. Operating systems for handheld computers are designed to provide anenvironment in which a user can easily interface with the computer to execute programs. Thus, someoperating systems are designed to be convenient, others to be efficient, and others some combinationof the two. [14].Mobile devices that could ran an operating system used to be considered a smartphone. At the present, as technology got smaller, a broader set of devices supports operating systems, yet not all phones have operating systems. Operating systems often have core services or toolkits that enableapplications to communicate to each other and share data or services. Mobil devices without operatingsystems typically run “walled” applications that do not communicate to anything else. Symbian Symbian OS is a full-featured, open, mobile operating system that powers many of today’ssmartphone, being one of the most widely used systems around the world [12]. Symbian smartphonesare shipped with a variety of useful pre-loaded and targeted applications, which are selected by each phone’s manufacturer. At the present, the average Symbian smartphone ships with over 30 pieces of third-party software pre-installed. The attraction for Symbian smartphone is driven by the fact thatthey are “open”. The users can further customize their phone experience by downloading, installing,and uninstalling applications written by third-party developers or by the users themselves. Users can
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