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Qualcomm rings in wireless software deal

Matsushita will license software from Qualcomm that allows cell phones to display animated graphics and even become karaoke machines.

Japanese handset maker Matsushita Electric Industrial has licensed software from Qualcomm that allows cell phones to display animated graphics and even become karaoke machines, Qualcomm said Thursday.

In a statement released Thursday, Matsushita--which owns electronics company Panasonic--did not divulge specific plans for the CMX software technology. CMX software allows phones to display several different types of content simultaneously. Deal terms were not disclosed.

Qualcomm said the agreement represents a clean sweep for the San Diego-based cell phone software and chipmaker. Including Matsushita, Qualcomm has now licensed its CMX software to every major Japanese handset maker.

But analysts say that CMX may not be a huge money-making opportunity for carriers, which are searching for new sources of revenue as increased competition has dropped the price of a cell phone call to new lows.

What's more, American cell phone users are slow to latch onto many of the new and more basic functions carriers are offering, such as e-mail, instant messaging or Net access, analysts say.

While European cell phone users are sending billions of text messages to each other every month, current cell phone technology still can't handle more advanced functions, such as online gaming.

But most analysts are impressed by new technologies such as CMX.

The technology is already in use in some phones in Korea, where users can transform their phones into Karaoke machines. These phones show animation and lyrics to a song on the screen, while a miniaturized version of a music player inside the phone belts out a tune. Some CMX phones even have lights that flash on and off to the music.

Qualcomm spokeswoman Bertha Agia said games that use CMX are also in development, along with wireless advertisements that go beyond simple text messages.

One fanciful ad Qualcomm is using to demonstrate the software's capabilities depicts a woman plucking pedals from a rose and tossing them into the air. A few moments later, the cell phone screen shows the location of a flower shop, and a special on roses.