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Summus Takes Shine to Symbian

Wireless application developer Summus Inc. (OTC: SUMU) has ported its Exego file-sharing technology to the Symbian Ltd. EPOC smartphone operating system, as part of a move to make its programs available on more handsets.

The expansion seems like a crucial move, given the firm's recently posted third-quarter results (see Summus Stumbles in Q3). For the quarter ended September 30, 2002, revenues decreased 68.9 percent from last year to just $36,435; gross profit fell 125.6 percent, from a positive $62,891 to a negative $15,826.

"To be very down-to-earth, it really comes down to how many handsets are available [with Exego] on the market," says Dr. Bjorn Jawerth, CEO and chairman of the board at Summus. The firm also hopes to make money selling middleware that will enable carriers to create picture messaging platforms.

Back in June, Summus launched Exego on Verizon Wireless's first two phones using the BREW platform from Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM). The compression technology in Summus' phone client software allows Verizon to offer photo messaging over its 2G CDMA network.

However, as Unstrung pointed out at the time, two phones does not a business make (see Verizon BREWs Up With Summus). This is why Summus has now ported the code to the Mobile Java (J2ME) and Pocket PC platforms as well. However, Jawerth says that the move to support the Symbian OS could be the most important, simply because so many handset manufacturers are behind the operating system.

The Exego technology will enable "anything with a digital format" -- that's Word documents, spreadsheets, audio and video files, etc. -- to be routed between wired and wireless devices, according to Summus. However, the initial focus for Summus is photo messaging and especially multimedia messaging (MMS).

"Everybody has been talking about MMS, we're seeing it becoming a reality all over the world," says Jawerth.

However, Jawerth really sees Exego -- and the Blue Fuel platform around which it is based -- as offering handset vendors and carriers the ability to bring picture messaging to legacy handsets, phones that aren't necessarily equipped with cameras, and ensuring backwards compatibility with the emerging MMS standard.

"Everybody calls it MMS, but nobody knows exactly what it is," Jawerth comments. "It is a standard in evolution."

The firm says that users with so-called legacy handsets will be able to download a small piece of code with just enough of the Blue Fuel application on board to enable their device to understand MMS. Of course, the handsets in question will still need to be able to support BREW, J2ME, or run the Symbian or Pocket PC operating systems, so they are unlikely to be much more than a year old, if that.

This move to get its software on more handsets is essential for the future of the company, but Unstrung did wonder if Summus has actually seen much in the way of revenues from sales of its wireless applications yet. "No, we have not seen revenues, but we are ramping up very quickly," says Jawerth.

Since the launch of the BREW-enabled T720 handset from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) on Verizon's 1xRTT Express network, there have been between 500 and 750 downloads a day of the Exego application, according to Summus's VP of marketing, Billy Purser. It will be interesting to see how availability on different platforms affects those download figures.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com
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