Elata Lines Up Further Deals

PARIS -- Wireless service software firm elata Ltd. is set to build on its contract win in Europe with Hutchison 3G UK Ltd. by naming two new customers before the end of 2002, according to the company’s VP for marketing and alliances, Matt Hooper.

"We're in that frustrating stage where we'd like to say something but we can't," Hooper told Unstrung here at the UMTS Mobile Internet show, though he admits that purchase orders have not yet been signed on the deals. "We've won the RFPs [requests for proposal] and RFQs [requests for quote] though."

Elata, whose Senses platform is commercially deployed by Hutchison to help in the targeted delivery of data services, is also on the verge of adding a "well known name from the carrier community" to its team. "He's still in his current job, so it wouldn't be right to say who it is at this point," adds Hooper excitedly.

At the show, elata announced the introduction of additional functionality to its software that allows a carrier's back-end system to "recognize" a device as it hooks up to a network (see Elata Recognizes Devices). This means that as services are requested they are delivered to the customer's device to fit the capabilities of that device -- for instance, whether it is Java enabled, MMS enabled, which operating system it uses, screen resolution, and so on.

This functionality is provided by a standard called User Agent Profiles (UAProf), which is being built in to all new mobile device lines. As a result, any new devices coming onto the market and being used by an operator's customers can be recognized and catered to without any manual updating of elata's platform or the installed software on the carrier's network.

"Some of the larger operators are beginning to recognize the importance of this sort of functionality. They are beginning to see how it will help them deliver the right services to the right customers and help make them money. If the operators want to deliver data services properly, they need to be focusing more on their middleware and deploying a proper services delivery platform."

Hooper is very upbeat about elata's prospects, with a reference customer already in the bag and channel deals with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ). The company also has early-stage deployments in Asia, including one with China Mobile Communications Corp.

Recent events have helped his company's cause, he says. "Motorola Inc. [NYSE: MOT] buying 4thPass was great for us in terms of business in Europe. Motorola has no infrastructure presence in Europe to speak of, so that's helping our cause. If Nokia Corp. [NYSE: NOK] had bought 4thpass Inc. then we would have had something to worry about." (See Motorola Acquires 4thpass.) Hooper disparages those companies giving away their products for nothing, simply to get them used -- which is all well and good for elata now that it has a paying customer. "Whichever way you look at it there's a lot of freeware out there these days."

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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