The following are the key advantages of wireless Internet (thin client) architecture:
- Minimal to zero software deployment. This allows applications to be deployed without any additional client-side configuration. Updates to these applications are also straightforward since only the server has to be updated.
- Extends Internet computing model. Many corporate applications are based on the Internet model. Wireless Internet is a natural extension to these applications.
- Familiar user interface. Many users are familiar with a browser interface to their applications. Providing a similar interface on mobile devices allows them to be productive immediately; there is no learning curve.
- Enterprise integration. If an existing Internet application is being extended, the application logic and enterprise integration layers may already be taken care of. This is a tremendous benefit, as enterprise integration often proves to be the most resource-intensive part of a mobile application.
- Security. All of the data is stored on the server behind corporate firewalls. No data is stored on the client.
Wireless Internet architectures have some disadvantages as well, namely:
- Wireless connectivity. To access any data, all of which resides on the server, you need wireless connectivity. This can be problematic when users are moving between multiple locations. The exception is when browsers have content-caching capabilities. That said, even when caching is available, there is still a very limited amount of data and logic available to perform transactions.
- Simple user interface. Many microbrowsers have limited capabilities for graphics or other “rich” components. Graphics are also often avoided to minimize the amount of data being downloaded over potentially slow wireless networks.
- Application performance. For each request being transferred over a wireless network, performance can be an issue. This is due partially to network throughput and partially to network latency.
- Application testing. Controlling, predicting, and testing the behavior of the application is difficult on the full range of microbrowsers. When emulation software is used to simulate devices, it is not always an accurate representation of the end-user experience since it is not executing over a wireless network.
- Availability. If a server-side problem occurs, all users will be brought to a halt.
- Security. Total control of the environment is not available in most cases, because a wireless gateway exists that may lead to security concerns.
- Cost. Wireless airtime fees can become an issue if the mobile user has to constantly be connected to use the application. On circuit-switched networks, where fees are charged based on the time connected, not the data transferred, charges are incurred even when a user is reading Web content or filling in a form.