Qualcomm brews Java alternative for cellphones

IDG News Service |  Development

Qualcomm Corp. announced Wednesday the development of an open application platform for wireless devices that, it said, is a better alternative to Java for mobile telephones. The announcement, made in Tokyo, comes five days after the first cellphones with support for Java went on sale here.

Dubbed Brew, or binary runtime environment for wireless, the new system will be offered by Qualcomm initially to cellular carriers using its CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology, although the company is also in talks with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) operators.

"We think that it will ignite a revolution in applications development and dramatically increase the pace of handset innovation," said Paul E. Jacobs, executive vice president of Qualcomm Corp., at a Tokyo news conference. "We believe Brew can have this impact because it solves fundamental issues facing developers, device manufacturers and carriers as they seek to bring the Internet to a vast array of wireless devices," he said.

Chief among the selling points of the system for developers is its support for the C and C++ programming languages. Applications for Brew are written in those languages and compiled -- something that provides for higher performance and reduces code size over interpreted code such as that used in Java, said Jacobs.

To create applications for Brew, Qualcomm will soon begin providing a software development kit (SDK) free of charge. The SDK, of which a beta version already exists, will be available in May.

"We're focused on building a third party developer community around Brew because we believe this creates a significant market opportunity for application developers," said Jacobs. "We see a primary function of Qualcomm as enabling the creativity of thousands of developers."

To this end, the company has established the Qualcomm Venture Fund, a US$500 million fund that provides money to developers working on new and innovative applications such as those running on Brew. Among some of the applications currently envisaged by Qualcomm that will be running on Brew are enhanced e-mail, mobile text chat, position location services, on- and offline games, Internet radio and streaming video.

Developers are not the only ones that will benefit from Brew, the company said. Once widespread, carriers will not have to wait for telephone manufacturers to build in support for their own proprietary new systems and technologies into their handsets. New services will be possible by writing new applications to run in the Brew environment.

That's important, said Masashi Onodera, executive vice president of DDI Corp., a major Japanese wireless carrier and the only one to support Qualcomm's CDMA technology in Japan. He admitted that handset shipments for its new services have been lagging behind the roll-out of those services.

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