Intense competition between mobile phone operators means more and more features are being crammed into cellphones in a bid to ramp up subscription base.
Not surprisingly, cellphones are becoming multi-purpose consumer devices that shoot video clips, download music, take pictures, facilitate e-mail and play high resolution games, among other things.
This is a Godsend for tech leaders such as the San Diego-based Qualcomm, the developer of Brew (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), a technology platform that extends the capability of cellphones by enabling instant messaging, e-mail, office applications, games, navigation and other uses.
But Brew has been playing second fiddle to J2ME, the stripped down Java-based mobile application platform of Sun Microsystems ever since its launch in February 2001.
Critics also called it a “narrow” technology since it worked only on phones that use Qualcomm’s proprietary CDMA or code division multiple access technology — or 25 per cent of all global mobile phones today.
Nevertheless, Brew seems to have hit the exponential growth path of late and is now available in 21 countries through 30 operators compared with just 7 operators last year in six countries.
In India, Tata Teleservices has already launched Brew-based services such as Push-To-Talk telephony. According to Qualcomm, 26 cellphone manufacturers today offer more than 135 Brew-enabled device models to consumers
A factor that points to the platform’s increasing acceptance is that just in the past one year, there have been more than 102 million downloads of Brew applications worldwide. This is a remarkable rise since that number stood at just 28 million in April 2003 — since the launch of the platform.
Paul Jacobs, president of Qualcomm’s wireless internet group and the man behind Brew, told a developers’ conference in San Diego recently that the success stories of start-ups across the globe using Brew was the best indicator of the technology’s merit.
Jay Joo of Korean wireless games maker IBSnet Co Ltd told Business Standard Brew has helped the company gain in the exploding mobile applications market. Joo said Brew’s advantage is that it is a marketplace that offers an inbuilt certification and billing system for game developers.
Under the “Brew ecosystem” developers create an application and submit it to the San Diego-based Qualcomm, which then certifies it and makes it available to various wireless carriers across the globe.
When a subscriber downloads an application anywhere in the globe, the developer, the mobile phone company and Qualcomm share the revenue arising out of it.