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Qualcomm tries Trigenix on for size

To help bolster its presence in Europe, the proponent of a North American cell phone standard goes on a shopping spree.

Cell phone chip maker Qualcomm on Tuesday said it has purchased United Kingdom-based wireless developer Trigenix, in part to bolster Qualcomm's stake in the all-important European cell phone market.

The San Diego company will pay $36 million in cash for Trigenix, which supplies many European handset makers and developers with user interfaces for cell phones and the tool kits for creating applications much more complex than usual games or ring tones.

Europe is among the most mature parts of the world's cell phone market--in some countries, up to 80 percent of residents own cell phones, and customers are willing to try newer and more expensive applications, like downloading entirely new messaging programs. Homegrown wireless giants, like Nokia and Ericsson, plus the cell phone standard Global System for Mobile communication, dominates the continent.

Qualcomm is known primarily for introducing and licensing a rival cell phone standard, CDMA, which is popular with carriers in North America and parts of Asia. Trigenix provides a cross-standard and continental bridge for Qualcomm, among other things. Since June, Trigenix has been working with Qualcomm to develop an interface for Qualcomm's BREW download software, which it could then supply to its dozens of European partners.

"They have all those companies in the GSM arena" and can help champion, in particular, Qualcomm's cell phone download software as an alternative to European carriers and handset makers, said Gina Lombardi, Qualcomm's senior vice president of marketing and product management.