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Start-up taps Microsoft's labs to boost mobile Net

Instead of one app on your phone, how about 1,000 in one? ZenZui from Microsoft Labs aims to try this out.

Seattle-based ZenZui has licensed a "zoomable user interface" aimed at creating prime real estate on the phone that can help connect road warriors with the information they're seeking.

In this approach, Web content is broken into tiles. At a distance, users just see the logos of the sites they are interested in. As they zoom in, they can get more detailed information, until finally they are viewing information from a single source. Because the phone already knows which tiles a user is interested in, the information can be downloaded and cached on the device, helping eliminate some of the latency associated with today's mobile Internet.

"If you try using the Web on a mobile phone, you would probably agree it's, at best, a painful experience," said ZenZui CEO Eric Hertz. Combine the slow data speeds with a tiny screen and the need to constantly scroll and it's a recipe for slow adoption, he said.

One of the biggest challenges for ZenZui will be to line up willing partners, particularly carriers that are used to controlling the real estate on their phones. ZenZui is launching an early trial of its service, but isn't identifying the carrier it is using.

Hertz said the company does have agreements with several companies to let them use their content in the trial, including, ABC News, and Wired magazine. In a couple of other cases, such as Yahoo's Flickr, ZenZui is using publicly available feeds to create a custom tile.

This summer, ZenZui hopes to broaden its trial to thousands of invited users and expand beyond Windows Mobile phones to those that support J2ME, the mobile version of Java. The company hopes to make money from the tile owners, as well as (potentially) through advertising.

This post comes to Webware from