File swapping for wireless devices?

File-swapping applications such as Napster have become commonplace on the home PC. But the same type of technology could be headed to some wireless devices.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
File swapping has become commonplace on the home PC. But the same type of technology could be headed to some wireless devices.

Irvine, Calif.-based software maker Endeavors Technology announced Friday it has successfully tested its custom-built file-swapping software on a wireless, Web-enabled device.

A demonstration of the software is scheduled for sometime next week, said Endeavors Chief Operation Officer Brian Morrow.

Thus far, peer-to-peer software is famous largely for the millions of people who are using applications such as Napster or Gnutella to trade music The P2P myth or video files online. A few PC-based business applications, such as Lotus Notes founder Ray Ozzie's Groove Networks, have also emerged. But much of the peer-to-peer industry is still searching for a viable business model.

The software was initially developed for another company hoping to market it to medical professionals, which would enable them to share crucial medical information over a wireless network, according to the company.

The technology has many similarities to Napster. For instance, computer users can decide what files to share publicly, what can be viewed by "buddies," and what is off-limits to anyone.

It also allows for mobile devices to communicate directly with any other Internet-enabled device, Morrow said.

The software was only tested on Compaq Computer's iPaq Pocket PC, one of the most powerful handheld devices. But Morrow said the software could work on any device with Windows CE, which Microsoft created for portable devices.

So far, not even Compaq has decided to use the programming, although Morrow said Endeavors has just begun announcing its availability.

Analysts are mixed on whether peer-to-peer for wireless devices will come even close to the explosion of file swapping on the wired Web. Napster claims it has nearly 40 million consumers. Its many offsprings, including Gnutella and Freenet, also have customers in the millions.

But a home PC connected to high-speed lines, or even a dial-up, is far better for memory capacity, download speeds, and viewing capabilities than any handheld device, analysts said.

Jupiter Media Metrix analyst Joe Laszlo said that isn't stopping companies from trying. Both he and Morrow say they've heard of other companies developing peer-to-peer software for mobile devices. But none have made any public announcements yet.

Laszlo said it might have limited appeal for people other than medical professionals or salespeople on the road who could use a mobile device to take a look at inventories.

"I'm a little hesitant," he said. "The question is how many end users want to replicate the PC experience on their portable device."