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HTML goes to handhelds

A leaner version of HTML for mobile devices called HDML, or handheld device markup language, may be on its way to becoming an official standard.

A leaner version of HTML for mobile devices called HDML, or handheld device markup language, may be on its way to becoming an official Internet standard.

Today, the creator of Unwired Planet along with six other high-tech companies said they have submitted version 2.0 of the HDML specification to a Net standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium. The other companies sponsoring the submission are Sun Microsystems, AT&T,Mitsubishi Electric,Tandem Computers,Gemplus, and Alcatel Alsthom Recherche.

Although it isn't guaranteed that HDML will become a sanctioned standard, the W3C's blessing could help spread adoption of the technology by manufacturers of miniature Web browsers for small devices. A derivative of HTML, HDML is geared towards a new generation of smart phones, pagers, and other handheld devices coming on the market from companies like AT&T and GTE.

The language is designed to render stock quotes, news headlines, and other information on small LCD screens found on these devices and to operate with much less memory than HTML.

Although Unwired Planet says the language is open to any company, it is the only vendor so far to build a browser, called Up.Browser, based on the technology. Several wireless network providers are including the browser in their devices, including the AT&T PocketNet, Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile Cellscape, and GTE SuperPhone services.

But, like HTML, an official standard could encourage broader support of HDML from other makers of mini-browsers. Navio Communications and Spyglass both offer such products.

According to Patricia Almon, a spokeswoman for Unwired Planet, version 2.0 of HDML offers new features like support for bitmap images and better integration with personal information manager and address book applications. The latter feature could be especially useful for corporations that want to let a sales force, for example, wirelessly tap into a corporate customer database.

Almon added HDML offers an attractive and simple way for publishers to reformat their information for small devices. "It creates a whole new channel of distribution for publishers." The complete HDML submission is on the W3C's Web site.