WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) is splintered and should have followed Internet protocols more closely.

But XML (Extensible Markup Language) will cover a multitude of sins as the Internet extends to mobile phones, says Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

Microsoft's .NET strategy is heavily geared toward extending Internet presence to devices beyond the desktop PC and the company has some key partnerships with carriers to develop mobile data solutions.

So the software giant's view on the long-term viability of the WAP standard being pushed by Nokia, Ericsson and other mobile phone manufacturers is likely to be influential.

Gates described issues with WAP as "one of those plumbing things that most of the world shouldn't have to be thinking about," at a press conference in Sydney yesterday.

However, Gates says, "the magic of software" should be able to hide many differences.

"What we've said is that it's very easy in a cellphone to have a microbrowser that can support not only WAP but also HTML and XML. Why do I bring up XML there? The key issue is, when a company wants to have a presence on the Internet, they don't want to have to build it once for the PC, once for the TV, once for the cellphone with a certain screen and once for the cellphone with another screen.

"They want to write a Web application and then just at the last minute take the information that needs to be presented and say, okay do we pass it down as XML, which means a program at the other end can deal with it, or do we map it into one of these screen sizes and screen protocols -- HTML or WAP or whatever?

Gates is touting .NET as a way for developers to be able to write a Web application for the PC and easily be able to map it onto mobile phone screens too.