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Openwave gets to the source

The wireless software maker releases some of its source code, joining a growing number of companies that are prying open their designs for the outside world.

A wireless software maker with equipment in most of the world's telephone networks is releasing some of its source code.

Openwave Systems is making the code available through SourceForge. The code is the essential software needed to access a library of information Openwave uses to route data like e-mails, short messages or Web pages to and from cell phones, according to Ron Mandel, general manager of developer services at Openwave.

With the announcement, Openwave joins a growing number of wireless equipment makers beginning to pry open their own designs to the outside world. Nokia opened up some of its source codes as well, and device makers like Research In Motion have been licensing out their designs. But there are still more proprietary systems than open source. Those companies still clinging to their secrets include Qualcomm, the owner of cell phone patents for about 20 percent of the world's phones.

"We hope this will help change that," Mandel said Thursday.

Opening source code is supposed to make it easier for wireless software developers to create new options for phones. Wireless carriers are counting on new programs like games or wireless messaging to earn back the cash they've spent building networks with more capacity for cell phone calls.

Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless, VoiceStream Wireless and AT&T Wireless have all rolled out part or all of their new cell phone networks. Sprint PCS said it will launch its new telephone network sometime in July or August, and will be the first carrier to use a new type of service based on a cell phone's location, according to recently released demonstration models of the new line of Sprint PCS phones.

But the main hurdle for wireless software writers was the arduous task of writing the same program six different ways, in order to work on the half-dozen different browsers now on cell phones.

The code Openwave release will allow a developer to gain access to a library of commands Openwave developed. As a result, developers can now write one program that will work on phones from Nokia, Motorola, Sony, Ericsson and Mitsubishi, among others, Mandel said.