Qualcomm adds to partner brew

The cell phone chipmaker's entry into the wireless software wars wins another 18 developer converts including one of Korea's largest telephone service providers.

Qualcomm's entry into the wireless software wars won another 18 developer converts Friday, including one of Korea's largest telephone service providers and four more device makers, the company announced.

These companies, including Hyundai and LG electronics, signed non-binding memos with Qualcomm to work on a software development effort called BREW, which the chipmaker introduced in December. It is essentially a wireless operating system that is competing alongside Sun Microsystems' Java-based alternative, Texas Instruments' own entry, and Openwave Systems' efforts, among others.

These companies aren't battling for customers, yet. Their focus now is instead on developers who they hope will create the software for e-mail, instant messaging or games that will eventually win over the hearts and wallets of wireless phone consumers.

Analysts say even with Qualcomm's BREW gaining more than 60 developers, it still pales in comparison with Sun's Java initiative for cell phones, which has signed on about 11,000 developers. Phones with Java and applications like a rudimentary Tetris-style game already were introduced last month in the United States.

Qualcomm has also fallen behind TI, whose software is expected to be in devices offered by Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, Sendo and Handspring in the near future, according to a TI spokeswoman.

But Qualcomm spokesman Jeremy James said don't count BREW out. The developer deals come months before the company has even released its software developers kit. That will come in May, when the company will host the first developers' conference in San Diego, Calif.

The companies that signed the memos include LG Telecom, Korea's No. 3 service provider. Qualcomm also has inked a pact with that country's No. 2 provider, Korea Telecom Freetel, which intends to launch a BREW-based wireless service by year's end.

U.S. providers Verizon Wireless and Leap Wireless have also signed agreements with Qualcomm.

The device makers that signed on include Hyundai and LG Electronics. They supplement other companies such as Samsung and Kyocera that plan to create BREW handsets.