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Start-up Seven addicted to Java

The company teams up with Sun Microsystems to bring its e-mail application to Java-enabled cell phones.

SAN FRANCISCO--Software start-up Seven Networks is teaming with Sun Microsystems to overcome one of its chief obstacles: a dearth of cell phones that can run its e-mail application.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Seven announced Monday at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 2004 show here that it will work with Sun to bring its e-mail client to the next generation of Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME)-enabled cell phones. Seven sells its e-mail application to cellular carriers which, in turn, can offer the service to its subscribers. The service allows customers to access their e-mail on cell phones.

The first Java phones to offer the e-mail service are expected to be released in the first quarter of next year.

Kent Thexton, co-CEO at Seven, believes that e-mail on cell phones will go from a convenient feature to a critical tool. The problem thus far has been that cell phones haven't been able to use the company's application.

"The devices haven't been there," said Thexton, adding that there are only a few phones on the market that have the processing power to run Seven's e-mail application. The Treo 650, which PalmOne launched Monday, is one such device, and it will come with Seven's e-mail application.

"Java is critical for us because it takes standard cell phones and makes our service available on them," Thexton said. "We want continued expansion from the enterprise market to consumers, and you really need devices to come to market to enable that."

Seven expects large businesses will be its primary customers, and it is counting on carrier partners, such as Sprint and Cingular, to sell to those companies. But Seven also expects to reach mainstream consumers.

The company will compete with Research In Motion's BlackBerry device and service, but Thexton said there are differences between the two offerings. RIM sells the entire package from device to service to customers, but Seven allows customers to choose which device and carrier they want to use, he said.

Still, RIM continues to lead the market, with about 1.6 million subscribers to its service as of Aug. 28.