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Openwave embraces I-mode with new browser

The wireless Web browser embedded in nearly 70 million cell phones is getting a makeover, adding new color graphics, sound and pull-down menus.

The wireless Web browser embedded in nearly 70 million cell phones is getting a makeover.

The newest version of the Openwave Systems browser will see Special Report: A high-wireless act support color graphics, sound, pull-down menus, click-on images and pop-up boxes that will ask customers, for example, if they actually intended to trash a file, the company announced Monday. Openwave hopes to bring more computer-friendly features to cell phones.

The browser will be compatible with I-mode, NTT DoCoMo's popular wireless technology that boasts millions of consumers in Japan.

Analysts regard Openwave as a bellwether for the wireless Web market because of the company's way of earning a large portion of its cash. The company has given its browser away for free to service providers. Telecommunications carriers offering wireless Web services then pay Openwave a commission every time someone accesses the wireless Web.

The first phones with the new Openwave technology will show up in Japan, where KDDI, the nation's second-leading service provider, plans to launch the new browser as part of its 3G phones in the second half of 2001, Openwave announced Monday.

But unlike their wired brethren, wireless users won't be able to click on a Web site for a download. Instead, consumers are going to have to buy an entirely new cell phone, said Openwave's vice president of marketing Ben Linder.

On average, cell phone users in the United States buy new gear every 18 months. In Japan, it's about 9 months. In Europe, cell phone users get new phones every year.

The announcement Monday was seen by analysts as more of a statement outlining the company's outlook for the next few years. Openwave, the company resulting from the merger of Phone.com and Software.com, recently stunned Wall Street by posting a profit instead of a loss in the fourth quarter and upping its revenue estimates for 2001 by $60 million.