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AOL serves up software for BREW

America Online plans to offer some of its most popular applications, including AIM and MapQuest, to customers who use Qualcomm's BREW software.

America Online plans to deliver some of its applications to U.S. wireless customers who use Qualcomm's BREW software.

The agreement, announced Tuesday, will enable cell phone users armed with Qualcomm's binary run-time environment for wireless, or BREW, to use a number of AOL services on their handsets. The software is already used by a number of wireless carriers to provide downloadable ring tones, games and video mail programs to consumers.

AOL said it plans to begin offering some of its most popular applications via BREW, including instant messaging (IM), Web-based e-mail, its MapQuest.com mapping tool and select games. Specifically, the company indicated that its IM services, both AIM and ICQ, will be available through several national wireless service providers. Among the carriers already working with BREW in the United States are Alltel, MetroPCS, Midwest Wireless, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless.

The AOL-Qualcomm partnership is aimed at tapping into growing U.S. demand for wireless applications other than traditional voice services. While BREW has succeeded in penetrating markets abroad, specifically the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. consumption of additional wireless applications remains relatively small. In Japan, tens of millions of subscribers already spend as much as $12 a month on data-oriented features.

However, the U.S. market for nonvoice services has the potential to grow to more than $22 billion over the next five years, according to researcher Strategy Analytics. In October, Japanese telecommunications company KDDI said it would begin offering a corporate e-mail program to U.S. companies that use BREW.

The Qualcomm software is not the only option for carriers and software makers. It also faces competition from Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition.