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Extend SAP Applications to Your Handheld Mobile Device in 10 Minutes or Less

by Karin Schattka | SAPinsider

January 1, 2006

by Karin Schattka, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2006 (Volume 7), January (Issue 1)
 


Karin Schattka,
SAP AG

For many business people, being reachable by phone — no matter when or where — has become a basic business necessity. Now with the emergence of mobile devices like Pocket PCs and BlackBerrys, it's about more than being able to take a call. It's even gone beyond having access to emails and calendars. Full mobile enablement means having permanent, wireless access to business data and online services; it's about integrating mobile devices into business processes. Only when business data, functions, and processes are available in real time through the browser of a mobile device can a company achieve complete, integrated use of mobile technology.

With SAP NetWeaver 2004, SAP customers already have the familiar technology platform and development tools they need to mobile-enable their existing applications. In this article, you'll see how functionality within SAP NetWeaver makes it easy to move SAP solution interfaces to your mobile device, leading you to results like the ones shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2. You'll also walk through this highly visual and easily repeatable development process using the simple example of checking a customer credit limit.1

Figure 1
Checking a Credit Limit Using a BlackBerry Mobile Device

Figure 2
Booking Travel Arrangements Using a Windows Mobile Device

Basic Technical Requirements for Mobile-Enabling Your Applications

SAP has had a mobile infrastructure in place for several years within the SAP NetWeaver platform. The latest major release, SAP NetWeaver 2004, supports Java-based, model-driven online applications. With SAP NetWeaver 2004 in place, including SAP NetWeaver Application Server, you have everything you need to develop mobile-enabled applications and customize their user interfaces — no additional installations are necessary, even on the mobile device itself.

Use a Familiar Development Environment

To program mobile-enabled applications, developers use the same development environment, SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio and the Web Dynpro programming model, that they would use to develop Web Dynpro Java applications for a desktop browser.2

Web Dynpro comes with many features — including user interface libraries with standard, complex, and graphical UI elements that promote reusability, as well as graphical tools like the Data Modeler, Navigation Modeler, and View Designer — you can use to quickly and easily establish mobile functionality, or to expand the existing use of mobile devices. When developing or adapting mobile applications, all other functions that provide support, such as context mapping, data binding, or connecting a backend using remote function calls (RFCs) or Web services, areused in the same way you would use them to develop desktop applications.

In other words, if you are simply redesigning the view of an existing application for mobile use, you would not need to touch the underlying business data and models that support the application, nor would you handle the controllers.3

Modify UIs with Web Dynpro

Developers also use the familiar Web Dynpro programming model to tailor the application to the smaller screen of a mobile device without necessarily having to touch code or the applications at all. The Web Dynpro runtime automatically recognizes a selection of mobile and fixed browsers or devices, including BlackBerrys and Pocket PCs.

Specific Web Dynpro renderer classes within the application server handle the corresponding markup language of each browser. These components translate the UI elements — described in the metadata — and make sure that the pages are rendered correctly in the browser: WML (wireless markup language) for a BlackBerry (see Figure 3), and HTML on Pocket PCs (see Figure 4).

Figure 3
Order Acknowledgement on a BlackBerry UI

Figure 4
Order Acknowledgement on a Pocket PC UI

Creating a Custom Mobile Application: Credit Limit Check Example

To drill down into how to extend an existing application to the browser of a mobile device, let's walk through an example. Consider a field sales rep for a major electronics vendor on location at a customer site, putting the finishing touches on a purchase order for 100 televisions. So the sales rep can process the television sale in real time and instantly confirm the purchase with the customer, you want to make a credit limit check available through his wireless handheld device. With SAP NetWeaver 2004, you can make this task a reality in just a few simple steps.

1. Use Drag-and-Drop Web Dynpro Tools to Create Two New Views

Since the layout of the credit limit check application for a desktop browser is bigger than the screen of the sales rep's mobile handheld device, you need to create two new "views" — MobileRequest and MobileResponse — to make the operation of the application more convenient on the smaller machine.4 Thanks to the underlying model-view-controller architecture,5 all other existing elements can be reused, including the connection between the credit limit Web service and the storage element of the controller, as well as all methods.

In addition, during design time, the views need to be connected with the existing controller using a data link, and the context elements, which are connected with a quick drag and drop, are distributed between the views (see Figure 5). You can find Request elements, including customer number and credit segment, in the MobileRequest view, and Response elements — such as credit limit, currency, and expiration date — in the MobileResponse view. Now the automatic data stream is assured; during runtime of this mobile application, your sales rep can get the results of his credit check on site at the customer location in real time.

Figure 5

Creating New Views with the Web Dynpro Data Modeler Tool

2. Adjust and Customize the UI

You can make adjustments to the UI elements with the help of Web Dynpro's UI element libraries, which you can move — via drag and drop — to a specific place within the View Editor. You can then adapt the individual properties to the UI of your sales rep's mobile device.

Creating views using templates is even easier. Many wizards and templates are available in Web Dynpro for this purpose, including ones for tables, forms, and buttons. The templates also contain queries for event-handling properties. Methods, for example, can be connected to UI elements with a simple mouse click.

Conclusion

Whenever employees are not at their desks but still require access to business applications or data, mobile online applications can uphold the pace of business. SAP NetWeaver 2004 provides you with the ideal development and runtime platform for mobile applications.

With SAP NetWeaver, you can use the familiar and highly visual SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio and Web Dynpro programming model to reuse and extend existing desktop browser applications for mobile use. A few drags and drops enable your end users to check customer credit limits — or use any other enterprise application — whenever they want, no matter where they are, and through a user interface that's tailored to their mobile device.

For more information on mobile-enabling your existing applications, visit www.service.sap.com/mobileui.


1- Please note that the credit check functionality highlighted here is an example Web service for the purpose of this article; the credit check Web service is not native to an SAP system.

2- For information on Web Dynpro, visit the SAP Developer Network (SDN) at www.sdn.sap.com and navigate to the Web Dynpro section within the Web Application Server developer area.

3 - If, however, you were to build a new mobile application from scratch, you would need to create all areas — model, view, and controller.

4 - For a more detailed look at how to create these two new views, download the Flash tutorial "How to Create a Mobile Web Dynpro Application with Web Dynpro" available at www.service.sap.com/mobileui --> Media Library --> Literature & Brochures.

5 - For more on model-view-controller architecture, see "Your 'Easy Way In' to Web Dynpro Development: New Design-Time Tools Now Available with SAP Web Application Server 6.30" by Karl Kessler in the April-June 2003 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).


Karin Schattka is product manager for Java-based user interfaces and mobile technologies at SAP. She has over 11 years of experience in the IT industry and has worked as a developer and a consultant on various customer projects. As a product manager, she develops solutions for a range of devices and platforms. In recent years these solutions have been based on Java technologies, such as J2ME and J2EE. Karin has spoken at important technical conferences, such as JavaOne and JAX, and also writes articles for journals and other technical publications.

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