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Openwave: J2ME Too!

LAS VEGAS -- Openwave Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OPWV) is making a greater push into the mobile Java (J2ME) space through an alliance program announced at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) show here in Las Vegas (see Openwave Gets Partners).

The alliance -- embracing Digital Bridges Ltd., End2End Holdings Ltd., InfoSpace Inc., In-Fusio, and mForma Group -- builds on the technical work that Openwave has already begun towards making its WAP browser more tightly integrated with the Java capabilities of mobile phones.

Why this increased focus on Java now? Well, the company's client software is selling well -- it says it is on track to ship 100 million copies of its browser this year -- but Java will enable Openwave to offer client software that commands a higher price.

"Java on the phone doubles the price" of the client software, according to Brian Dally, director of product marketing for Openwave's device software product group.

In order to compete with offerings from the likes of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Openwave is trying to make the way people use mobile Java on the phone more like the way Java is used on a desktop PC.

Currently, Java on the handset tends to be entirely separate from the browser. In the PC world, users locate and download Java applications via their browser. This is what Openwave is trying to do in its work with Java, according to recently appointed joint-CTO Thomas Reardon. He says it will make Java apps easier to find and use on the phone.

Of course, those applications need to be developed in the first place, which is part of the motivating factor behind Openwave's new partnerships. The partnering firms will also work together on marketing packages to mobile operators.

Recently, developers working with J2ME have been talking to Unstrung about the problems of working with the standard (see Write Once, Run Nowhere?). They say that both handset vendors and operators add their own extensions to the code, making it difficult to support different devices.

Openwave says it will work with the existing and forthcoming MID P device profiles when developing Java software (see Sun Always Shines on MID P).

"We're not going to play the same game that Nokia, Ericsson AB [Nasdaq: ERICY], and NTT DoCoMo Inc. [NYSE: DCM] play," says Reardon.

But of course, Openwave does have to play in the same market as those companies, and Unstrung wondered if concerns about the future for Openwave might prompt operators and developers to choose the bigger companies instead (see Openwave: Wave of the Future or Wipeout?).

Reardon says that infrastructure software is the side of the business that is really suffering at the moment. Meanwhile, "Our client business is growing like mad."

The company is refocusing its infrastructure business around three "purely profitable" elements: the WAP gateway, the provisioning manager, and location services [ed. note: Location services profitable? Surely some mistake].

Reardon is banking on Openwave's standards-based, platform-neutral approach giving it an edge over the big guys in the end.

"There's no other horizontal software company doing what we're doing," he claims. "If you're an operator that wants to be vertically tied to a Nokia or an Ericsson, then so be it."

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
http://www.unstrung.com
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