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Start-up tries to make smart phones smarter

A software company says it has invented a way to make smart phones and PDAs smarter, without the sometimes-costly process of downloading the necessary software.

A software company says it has invented a way to make smart phones and PDAs even smarter, without the sometimes-costly process of downloading the necessary software.

Phones generally aren't made with the software needed to do complex tasks, like multiple-player interactive games. Instead wireless users have to download applications. Even if the software is free, the telephone call needed for the download is not. It can take minutes to do, which can ring up a hefty phone charge.

Start-up UIEvolution says it found a way to stream the software onto the devices instead. It only takes seconds and, because the software doesn't sit on a hard drive, it frees up memory for other tasks. UIEvolution Chief Executive Satoshi Nakajima says it also avoids pitfalls like waiting through wireless-network delays or coordinating with others to get them on the appropriate network.

The software, to be unveiled Tuesday, is for BREW, or binary runtime environment for wireless. BREW is Qualcomm's attempt to dominate the wireless operating system market, competing against entries from Sun Microsystems, Nokia, Microsoft, Intel and Motorola.

With so many companies hoping to rule the wireless world, developers of applications for wireless devices have become key. Service providers want to find the next application like e-mail, which is credited with helping to boost the terrestrial Web into prominence. Qualcomm, Nokia and Ericsson have all launched venture capital arms to fund wireless companies.

Peggy Johnson, senior vice president of Qualcomm and general manager of Qualcomm Internet Services said in a statement that UIEvolution's software "can fundamentally change how we experience the wireless Internet."

But analysts like Joe Laszlo of Jupiter Research says developing the software is just a small part of the battle. Persuading telephone service providers they can make money off the applications is also key. Telephone companies are searching for new ways to make money, now that increased competition has dropped phone rates.

According to Nakajima, telephone carriers can offer games for free, then charge a subscription rate for more complex and presumably exciting levels where things such as hints or special tournaments are offered. Service providers can also put real-life products into the games as a way of selling advertising, Nakajima says.

In December, UIEvolution announced it had allied with Motorola to develop interactive and multiplayer games like chess and space invaders for handsets Motorola hopes will be on the market midyear. In January, Sun demonstrated wireless games by UIEvolution.