NZ developer gets mobiles Jabbering

A Pakuranga businessman has set up a service which extends Jabber instant messaging to mobile phones.

A Pakuranga businessman has set up a service which extends Jabber instant messaging to mobile phones.

Phillip Smith (pictured), who owns a property maintenance business, was using at least five different IM systems to chat to people around the world and wanted to extend that to his phone. He found an MSN-based service for $US30 a month but it didn’t communicate with all his contacts’ systems and was too expensive.

So he rang Jabber Inc, the maker of the open source IM client Jabber, to find out if it had a mobile service. When the answer came back no, Smith offered to set one up and Jabber took him on.

What he had found was that large IM players like ICQ were developing their own mobile phone software and starting to block smaller software companies already in the field. He contacted some of those companies, such as Tipic in Italy and MessageApps in the UK, to get them to add Jabber support to their products. Word spread and he ended up fielding inquiries from companies in the US, Germany, UK, Singapore and Italy. He also worked with software developers within the Jabber open source community.

In August last year Smith set up JabLab, a “managed service vendor” offering mobile IM based on Jabber technology.

JabLab combines a range of mobile phone clients with the Jabber XCP (extensible communications platform) server provided by Jabber under a special agreement and the Jabber Wireless Gateway running on Red Hat Enterprise Server 2.1 to provide a hosted IM environment for mobile and desktop users.

JabLab customers will be able to download a free Jabber IM client (such as messapps from the UK or Tipic) and then for $20 to $25 a month JabLab will provide security and support. Smith says the service is aimed at both business and consumer customers.

JabLab’s technical adviser, Terry Vercoe, says people can cobble together their own free, open source mobile IM but won’t have any guarantee of support or security.

Smith has worked with Jabber and the Jabber Software Foundation community in New Zealand, Italy, Norway, the US and the UK on security.

Jabber implements several layers of security, including secure transport, password handling, server-to-server communication, and end-to-end message encryption and PKI integration facilities.

Vercoe says at present JabLab facilitates file transfers or active scripting, keeping it free from the security vulnerabilities of public IM systems.

He says initially only those on Vodafone (GPRS) mobile contracts (not prepaid) will be able to use the system. The company’s website provides information on IM for private and business users and which mobile phone handsets are capable of supporting IM. IM software developers can use the Jabber servers on the site to showcase and test their products.

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