Will imaging apps be wireless' savior?

Images will drive wireless applications with the coming of high-speed third-generation networks. So says Philippe Kahn, chief executive of LightSurf Technologies Inc., which develops technologies and infrastructure to deliver images over wireless networks. Famed for his reign at Borland, Kahn also heads Starfish Software Inc., now a subsidiary of Motorola Inc. Starfish develops the TrueSync synchronization platform and is a founding member of SyncML an industry effort to develop a single protocol for synchronization.

As Kahn sees it, image applications will rule the wireless world with the availability of 3G networks, wireless technology due in the next two to five years that will support high-speed multimedia data and voice and advanced global roaming. Today's second-generation (2G) networks (CDMA, GSM, and TDMA) are digital but designed primarily for voice. Before third-generation (3G) technology arrives, so-called 2.5-generation networks such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) will add speed and data support to 2G networks as early as late 2001.

We'll share images such as photos or maps on wireless phones and handhelds, and use images in countless other applications involving location services, commerce, and communications. PCWorld.com recently discussed the promise of this technology with Kahn.

PCW: What kind of new applications will we see with 3G networks?

Kahn: The investments to deploy 3G networks are so massive for the carriers that they need to justify it with more than just voice, synchronization, calendar or messaging, and looking at spreadsheets on a handheld. Those work well enough on 2G networks. To make 3G possible in terms of reasonable return on investment, instant messaging or imaging over wireless becomes key.

PCW: Is imaging central to 3G applications?

Kahn: Yes, instant visual communications is the key application for next-generation networks. NTT DoCoMo has already proven this in Japan, where wireless messaging [and photo sharing] is hugely popular.

PCW: What is LightSurf doing to develop wireless imaging?

Kahn: LightSurf has been working for three and a half years with wireless operators, infrastructure providers, handset makers, and companies like Kodak to define the killer apps for 3G and create technology to enable them.

PCW: What kinds of things can imaging bring to wireless devices?

Kahn: What's interesting is sharing a picture of your kids with your grandparents. And there's massive amounts of business in wireless photo-sharing.

PCW: What technology and products will enable wireless imaging?

Kahn: LightSurf has built an infrastructure that already runs most of Kodak's digital imaging efforts. Our customers are also cellular operators and handset makers. Some of these partners will be rolling out cell phones with embedded digital cameras or clip-on cameras for cell phones toward the end of the year.

This story, "Will imaging apps be wireless' savior?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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