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European cell carriers get some Sun

Orange and T-Mobile will sell only downloads that are Java Verified, in a win for Sun and its downloading software for cell phones.

Major European cell phone carriers Orange and T-Mobile Europe will soon require that downloadable games and other data sold to their subscribers meet quality standards set by Sun Microsystems and several major handset makers.

Orange and T-Mobile Europe, which combined have 96 million subscribers, are the first carriers to commit to Sun's Java Verified program, which certifies software programs to ensure that they'll run on different companies' mobile phones. Sun believes that other carriers will be influenced into joining Java Verified as a result.

The announcements are a sign of a "deepening commitment" by both carriers to using Java to power their download services, Sun executives said. Alternative technology is available from Qualcomm, a San Diego-based maker of chips for cell phones.

Sun created Java Verified alongside major handset makers Motorola, Nokia, Siemens and Sony Ericsson. On Thursday, Research in Motion also signed up. The set of tests are meant to ease problems developers have with writing a single Java program that can run on most Internet-enabled handsets.

Running on Java has been a tricky process, with different phones having different features, such as buttons, message handling, processing power, and sound and graphics capabilities. That, in turn, has slowed development of applications that cell phone service providers can sell to help recoup their losses as the price of phone calls continues to drop due to competition.

It's a continuing problem, though it's getting more and more minor, Sun executives said. "There's always some room for improvement," Alan Brenner, Sun's vice president of consumer and mobile systems, said during an interview Thursday.