Culture

Sun figures in Nokia phone standard group

The alliance will back a variety of nascent standards that merge wireless communications with more Internet-like features.

LAS VEGAS--Mobile phone giant Nokia announced a multi-company initiative to standardize future cell phones to include features incorporating Sun Microsystems' Java software and the ability to send images between phones.

The alliance, which Nokia Chief Executive Jorma Ollila called the "open mobile architecture initiative" during his keynote address Monday at the Comdex Fall 2001 trade show, includes many major phone makers and carriers that offer mobile phone service. AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Siemens, Sharp, Samsung, NEC and Matsushita are among those companies.

The alliance will back a variety of nascent standards that merge wireless communications with more Internet-like features. Among the standards is Java, which lets programs run regardless of which chip and operating system the phone uses. Also included is the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) for sending graphics and video, the XHTML Web page description language, SyncML for synchronizing data between different computing gadgets, and version 2.0 of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).

In addition, the consortium plans to add features to authenticate phone users, and the leading candidate is the Liberty Alliance Project initiated by Sun, Pertti Korhonen, senior vice president of Nokia mobile software, said at a news conference after Ollila's speech.

"Liberty is definitely the initiative that we as an industry are looking at (as) the most promising solution to provide an open authentication solution where the user can be in control of his authentication information," Korhonen said.

The Liberty Alliance Project, like Java, was formed to thwart the power of Microsoft. Java has made some steps in deflecting the importance of the Windows operating system, and Liberty, while still young, is designed to undercut Microsoft's Passport system for logging users on to networks.

Nokia and its partners in the alliance didn't approach Microsoft, AOL Time Warner or Palm, Ollila said, though they're welcome to join.

The next-generation mobile phone alliance also is evaluating the best standard to use for digital rights management, which governs copyrighted material and related issues, Korhonen said.

To spur the new standard, Nokia said it will license several cell phone software packages, including its XHTML Web browser and programs supporting MMS and SynchML. It also will license the Series 60 software package that will let other companies build high-powered "smart phones" based on the Symbian operating system.

"We estimate that next year, more than half of the mobile phones we sell will be MMS-enabled," Ollila said.

The adoption of a standard phone software will help prevent the fragmentation that has hobbled the growth of some aspects of the mobile phone market, Ollila said.

The way things were headed, "There would have been in the world perhaps a half-dozen different standards, leading to a situation where you have very small volumes of each, and you don't get the economies of scale, and you don't get the global interoperability that consumers want," Ollila said. "An open systems and software approach is the best way to stimulate this ecosystem."

Ollila also gave a glimpse of a multipurpose gadget the company sells in Europe, a device that crams cell phone, game machine and audio player features. The system has a small screen that divides two halves of a keyboard.