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Working with Microsoft's Mobile Internet Toolkit

  • September 3, 2002
  • By Paul Kimmel
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From the CodeGuru.com column, Paul Kimmel on VB/VB.NET.

Introduction

When the capital markets look back at the "bursting Internet bubble", it will more likely look like a sensible correction that every new major industry has to endure several times. There were a lot of companies that were supported solely by investor capital with no viable product or profit, which probably isn't a good thing. As I sit here in the airport in Detroit, Michigan I can already sense an increase in the pulse of the American economy by the bustle of early morning commuters.

With the quickening of the economy there will likely be a new round of e-businesses with a marked de-emphasis on their .com-ness. As a developer I am caught squarely between the bleeding edge of new technologies and the lagging edge of making a living. One of the growing trends is the interest in building applications for mobile devices. Building software for mobile devices is a pretty safe and smart bet because of the ubiquity of these devices. People are already using web-enabled cell phones, personal digital assistants, and pagers, and they will need software for these devices. While we have no where near sated the need for desktop applications, the new frontier is building applications for mobile devices and PCs. This is what I wanted to write to you about today.

A coherent, cohesive, and comprehensive framework is a critical must for any software tools vendor. Microsoft has such a frame work in .NET. If you have been following VB Tech Notes then you already know about some of the amazing aspects of the .NET Framework, like asynchronous Web Services, multithreading, the CodeDOM, Reflection, Attributes, ADO.NET, and ASP.NET. Built upon this framework is Microsoft's Mobile Internet Toolkit (MMIT).

The Mobile Internet Toolkit is available as a free download from Microsoft and is an extension to the .NET Framework. MIT allows you to visually design Mobile Web Pages almost identically to the way that you would design an ASP.NET Web Page-visually, adding code behind to support behaviors. The upshot here is that you can run and test these Mobile Web Pages in Visual Studio .NET and Internet Explorer. Because MIT is part of the .NET Framework you and the Microsoft developers have all of the access to .NET. As a direct benefit of being part of the .NET Framework, the Microsoft developers were able to make Mobile Web Pages capable of rendering on a wide variety of devices using one body of code. To be clear, you design the Mobile GUI using a visual designer, add code behind, and connect to a database if you need one. The same Mobile GUI can render CHTML, WML, or HTML depending on the needs of the device.

MIT can render a Mobile Web Page in any of these three markup languages, resulting in your mobile applications being displayed on a huge variety of devices, including WAP phones, Handhelds and PDAs, and pagers. For a complete list of devices tested for MIT refer to the http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/device/mitdevices.asp. In this article I will be providing you with a quick overview of Mobile development with .NET and the Microsoft Mobile Internet Toolkit. If you will be building applications for mobile devices and want to leverage one body of code for the greatest number of devices then I recommend picking up a copy of my soon-to-be-released .NET Mobile Application Development from Wiley (to be published Winter 2002).

Configuring for Mobile Application Development

The Mobile Internet Toolkit does not ship with Visual Studio .NET. For this reason you will need to do a little extra configuring of your workstation to build mobile applications. Here is a quick overview of the kind of configuration your workstation will need to have.

If you are going to develop mobile applications on your workstation then your configuration needs to be similar to that for developing ASP.NET applications. You will need to be running Windows NT service pack 6.0 or higher, Windows 2000, or Windows XP. You will need to install Internet Information Services (IIS), the Microsoft .NET Framework, and Microsoft's Mobile Internet Toolkit. Optionally, you could implement mobile applications, as you could ASP.NET applications, without Visual Studio .NET, but it is much easier to use Visual Studio .NET then it is to use a plain old vanilla editor like Notepad. (The specific list of system requirements can be found in the Visual Studio .NET help.)

After you have installed the Mobile Internet Toolkit, there will be additional classes, controls, designers, and project templates in Visual Studio .NET. It is these additional items that install with the MIT that we will use to create our sample application.





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