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BREW Bubbles Into Europe

Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) is preparing to push its Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) software into an unsuspecting European carrier market.

The move will break new ground for the U.S. vendor’s software -- a mobile Java rival that is intended to provide a platform to make it easier for developers to create applications for mobile phones -- following some success in its home country and Asia/Pacific. As of last month, nine operators have commercially deployed BREW services since January 2001 -- Midwest Wireless Holdings LLC, Verizon Wireless, Alltel Corp. (NYSE: AT), U.S. Cellular Corp., KT Freetel Co., KDDI Corp., China Unicom Ltd., VIVO, and Telstra Corp. (see Qualcomm Lauds BREW Success).

The vendor’s efforts to woo European carriers will be driven by “about half a dozen Qualcomm veterans” scattered around the continent and headquartered in London, according to Johan Lodenius, newly appointed senior VP, European business relations for Qualcomm Internet Services.

“We believe there are good opportunities all over Europe, from Southern Europe up to Scandinavia,” he comments. “We are moving over there and setting up camp. The first person moved over last week.” Prior to the move, Qualcomm had no BREW specific executives permanently positioned in Europe.

The company is at pains to stress that this will be no heavy-handed, all-guns-blazing sales effort. “This is not about Qualcomm coming into Europe and telling Europe what to do. We will be trying to apply the technology we have in the right way for the European market. It is a two-way street.”

Lodenius points out that its BREW software is “not air interface specific,” but analysts remain sceptical of Qualcomm’s chances of success in a market far removed from its core CDMA customer base. “Europe’s GSM carriers have made a lot of investment in WAP gateways and i-mode platforms, as well as their own data applications, so you have to ask whether there is room for another player,” notes IDC’s Paolo Pescatore (see Vodafone Claims 1M Live! Users and KPN Reaches i-Mode Milestone).

“When it comes to the bottom line, Qualcomm may find it difficult to gain a foothold. Never count if off, though. There will always be some interest, especially from tier three and four carriers wanting to shake the market up.”

Qualcomm, it seems, plans to stick around. “This is not a short-term effort,” Lodenius states. “We will not withdraw if we don’t make money in x number of years. This is a long-term commitment that we know works well in terms of the business model. We are already starting to get commitment in Europe from developers.”

Early partner names on the board include Anthropics Technology Ltd., iFone Ltd., Interzen Consulting S.r.l., Macrospace Ltd., Magic4 Ltd., and Mobile Scope AG (see Macrospace BREWs Up Games and Magic4 BREWs Up MMS Client).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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