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Iona looks to wireless for profits

The software specialist takes a different approach to delivering documents to laptop-toting mobile workers over Wi-Fi networks--with the help of Intel's latest chip.

Iona seeks to profit from Intel's mobile computing expansion plans with software that delivers information to laptop-toting workers.

The integration software specialist on Monday is scheduled to announce Mobile Orchestrator, a set of products that serves up documents to people who intermittently access Wi-Fi wireless networks.

Iona said it conferred with Intel, which plans to formally launch its Centrino wireless chip on Wednesday, on establishing the proper software design for people who may go in and out of wireless access points. Centrino will give PCs built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, and Intel hopes it will also accelerate the use of mobile computing.

"People want to work untethered, but it presents a unique set of challenges similar to cell phones, where people will move in and out of connections. The missing link to make it work is software that understands that," said Pat O'Brien, the vice president of corporate strategy at Iona.

Mobile Orchestrator, due later this month, will be able to pull information from corporate networks and publish the documents to mobile PC users. The software will also automatically send out data once a laptop gains a wireless Internet connection.

A corporate sales application, for example, could be improved with Centrino-powered laptops and Mobile Orchestrator, according to Intel and Iona. Rather than getting mobile salespeople to log onto a company network to view sales records, the Iona software will automatically broadcast relevant documents to a salesperson's laptop through a wireless connection.

The server software for Mobile Orchestrator relies on XML as the data format to package up and transmit the corporate documents. The product will also comply with emerging XML-based Web services standards for security, reliable messaging and business process automation, also called orchestration, as they become finalized.

One advantage of Mobile Orchestrator is that mobile workers will be able to perform as if they were on the corporate network, said Bobby Soni, managing director and practice leader for technology integration at BearingPoint. Allowing workers to make transactions or participate in a business process, rather than simply download data, will help productivity tremendously, said Soni.

"Now there's so much more mobility in the work force that the process gets choked if a person is not near an access point," said Soni. "Now people don't have to be behind a corporate firewall to be effective."

Iona's use of XML-based business process management (BPM), or workflow, tools to connect mobile workers differs from the strategy of other integration software companies.

Iona focuses on presenting information to mobile PCs, while companies, from the giant IBM to small start-ups, have created BPM software that can automate complex business processes in a wide variety of scenarios. Iona's Mobile Orchestrator will work with other server-centric integration and business process management products, said O'Brien.

Mobile Orchestrator is the first in a new line of "Orchestrator" products from Iona. Subsequent versions will address more specific business scenarios, such as sharing information across a corporate supply chain, the company said.

The server software will cost $18,000 per processor. The client software will be priced starting at $130 per person for 250 people. The development and design tool will cost $1,500 per license. Customers will be able to use Iona's client software or use other XML-compliant client applications to present and exchange data over a network.